A Wonderful Year of Music-making
Nine University of St. Thomas vocal music major singers, under the tutelage of Associate Professor and Chair of Music Brady Knapp, entered the Greater Houston National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) spring competition, and eight were finalists.
But the path to success has had its challenges due to the pandemic sweeping the world.
COVID-19 Forces Vocalists to Train Online
“I am very proud of our UST vocal music major students and grateful for their excellence, positive energy and stellar work ethic,” Knapp said. “Especially during the disruptions of COVID-19. It is has been complicated for all collegiate music majors to train with teachers and accompanists via online platforms for the last seven weeks.”
A performance of special note was given by UST junior Alan Saldaña, baritone who earned first place, lower advanced classical division.
“It was a first time experience my first vocal competition online, but it felt rewarding at the end nonetheless,” Saldaña said. “Performing online was a process, both having multiple takes and using a video editor to make sure my video recordings were in a presentable manner. It was via YouTube. I performed Silent Noon by Ralph Vaughan Williams, La mer est infinie by Gabriel Faure, Auf dem Kirchhofe by Johannes Brahms, Filli di gioia by Antonio Vivaldi, and lastly Riolobo's Invocation from the opera Florencia en el Amazonas by Daniel Catan.
Saldaña plans to continue his studies in a master of music program, and he wants to pursue an operatic singing career and teach voice lessons.
Also rising to the top was graduating Master’s in Sacred Music (MSM) student Lauren Henderson-Turner, mezzo-soprano who earned first place, advanced adult classical division.
The music she performed for the competition was Va! laisse couler mes larmes from Werther by Jules Massenet; Spring Sorrow by John Ireland; and O kühler Wald by Johannes Brahms.
“Performing online was difficult, but a blessing,” Henderson-Turner said. “It is strange not to have the audience and the audience’s energy coming back to you.”
Henderson-Turner’s plans after graduation are to stay around the Houston area and perform and teach. Currently she sings with the Houston Grand Opera chorus and does oratory work with Elizabeth Ann Seaton Catholic Church and St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Sugar Land.
She also plans to do more opera performances with smaller regional companies in the area.
NATS Competition was Robust
UST vocal music majors competed online with collegiate music major students from all over the area including: Lamar University, Sam Houston State University, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, University of Houston, Houston Community College, A&M Prairie View, and all of the local junior colleges: San Jacinto Community College, North Harris Community College, Kingwood, and others.
The other seven UST vocal student competitors are:
- Laura Stickland, soprano, MSM, who earned second place, lower advanced classical division
- Sara Zare, mezzo-soprano, Masters in Liberal Arts (MLA) music, second place advanced adult classical division
- Suzanne Vanladingham, soprano, MSM, third place advanced adult classical division
- Diane Struve, soprano, UST senior, second place Senior women division
- Benjamin Jensen, tenor UST junior, third place Junior men division
- Eduardo Katoul Rahbani, tenor, second place Sophomore men division
- Joshua Graham, tenor, MLA music, Adult beginner category
Saldaña and Henderson Turner, will be invited to sing on an intercollegiate Livestream performance ‘safely distanced’ and/or ‘prerecorded’ this fall. Finalists will also be given gift certificates from a music store.
The other UST finalists brought home medals and will receive official recognition from NATS competition organizers as well as a certificate of participation.
What the World Needs Now
“My voice students prove classical singing and collegiate music education is alive and well despite the public health crisis that has so challenged every area of performing and fine arts culture,” Knapp said. “The world needs their beautiful singing now more than ever!”
“Thank you all for a wonderful year of music-making.”