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Summer “Diction” Workshop wraps up at beautiful St. Olaf College

posted on 11:14 AM, July 9, 2019
The latest NATS Summer Workshop and National Student Auditions (NSA) wrapped up in Northfield, Minnesota.
Cheri Montgomery

By Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk, NATS Vice President for Workshops

July 5, 2019 - The latest NATS Summer Workshop and National Student Auditions (NSA) wrapped up last week in Northfield, Minnesota. Our local coordinator, Alison Feldt, welcomed us to beautiful St. Olaf College with a team of volunteers ready to assist registration and housing needs for both the workshop and the NSA. Alison, Diane Reich, and other volunteers were indispensable as we juggled the needs of several hundred workshop attendees, young singers, and their families… as well as a few campus tours that took place in our midst.


2019 Summer Workshop

2019 National Student Auditions: Album 1  Album 2  Album 3

 Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk (left) and Alison Feldt
 Anton Belov
 Anna Hersey

We began with two engaging sessions on Russian diction and literature with Anton Belov, who interspersed his lively presentations with anecdotes about the composers. Many commented that they’d wished their music history courses had been as entertaining. His repertoire compilations and diction books were available, and during each break his stack of books grew smaller. Collaborative pianist Amanda Johnston introduced French diction, and as a near-native speaker (French is required of all Canadian citizens), she brought a great deal of authority to the subject. Her master class applying the concepts to repertoire concluded the session. The day concluded with Anna Hersey’s introduction to vocal repertoire of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, into which she weaved a master class. Her book on Scandinavian diction was available for purchase, and sold out almost immediately.

Our second day began several registrants meeting with their counterparts for the Mentored Teaching Experience, followed by a presentation of the Royal Conservatory of Music Certificate Program, which generously sponsored the workshop. Though many of their materials did not arrive in time to be distributed to attendees, much interest was generated for the program. While workshop participants were with the RCM representative, I was offering a Mindfulness for Peak Performance workshop for the NSA singers. It was terrific to see a few parents and workshop attendees there, as well.

The afternoon workshop sessions began with Cheri Montgomery’s presentation on teaching diction in the university setting. Her suggestions regarding not only how to structure courses but also how to assess student work were welcomed.

Amanda Johnston

Amanda Johnston returned to address German/English diction, not coincidentally just before rushing to the airport to teach in Germany for the month. Her wry sense of humor and comfort with the language made her master class as delightful as her lecture. Her book on comparative German/English diction sold out as well. The NSA finals took place in the evening, with the students of several attendees winning top awards.

Our last day began with Anna Hersey's thorough, comparative lecture on Scandinavian languages. Many participants requested the PowerPoint slides for future reference, and they were sent following the workshop. Anton Belov returned for a final lecture and master class on Russian diction, much to everyone’s delight. Cheri Montgomery wrapped up the day with ideas for incorporating diction into the private studio, along with a re-imagined vowel chart.

Throughout the workshop, NATS Executive Director Allen Henderson and NATS President Karen Brunssen were present, offering assistance when needed and getting to know the people who attended. Mark Bilyeu accompanied the singers in the master classes. Paul Witkowski photo- and video-documented the event, and serves as our web guru as well. Blake, Connie, and Tripper from EGAMI video recorded all of the sessions with their usual expertise and ease, and recordings of the sessions will be available for those who were unable to attend. It takes many hands to make this workshop happen, and I’m grateful to each and every one of them for their help as well as their kindness. The NATS staff in the national office, though not present, are both kind and helpful: I simply couldn’t do it without Debbie, Tina, Margie, Heather, and Amandia. My deepest thanks to them.