On Saturday, February 27, Mark Berry, Jahsaiah Moses, Jozette Moses, Emma Thorp and I loaded onto a bus driven by Mr. Kovach and headed for the Virginia chapter of the 2016 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) vocal competition held at George Mason University. Upon arrival we were greeted by our voice teacher, Mrs. Cara Transtrom, where she helped us to register and figure out who was singing when and where. Very long story short, I was forbidden to sing during my time-slot by my theater director because I would miss some of a rehearsal for a regional theater competition with EHS Mainstage. My mom, Mrs. Cara, the NATS directors, and our accompanist Ms. Ruth bent over backwards to figure out a way in which I could possibly compete, and thankfully their hard work paid off. After a long, anxious wait sitting in the hallway outside my competition room to see if I would end up being able to compete, a judge came out and called me in. I was overall proud of my performance, but in no way thought I would place.
My mom and I hopped in the car and arrived on campus with hardly any time to spare. During a rehearsal break, I saw I had a voicemail from an ecstatic Mrs. Cara – I had placed first, making me eligible to move on in the competition. Mark, Jahsaiah, and Emma also qualified to advance to regionals, and Jozette would have had she not been very sick throughout the competition. I was shaking from excitement, and couldn’t stop thinking about what lay ahead: the regional competition in Charleston, SC. My parents were thrilled, and my mom and I flew down to Charleston the week we got back from Spring Break for regionals. I sang in my early morning time-slot, and waited anxiously with my mom and Mrs. Cara for hours to see the results. After what seemed like ages, the list went up. After pushing through the mob surrounding the list, my heart beating out of my chest, I scanned the list to discover that I had placed third in the region. This once again made me eligible to move on. Next up was the national YouTube round. Previously, I was only competing against underclass women. This time, I was up against every single female high-schooler that had moved on in the country. I polished my songs as best I could with Mrs. Cara and her colleague David Sabella (who made his Broadway debut in the original company of Chicago). Eventually the time came to film my competition videos, and after doing each of the three songs at least five times we decided on three takes that we wanted to submit.
After about a month of waiting, I got a text from Mrs. Cara at lunch one Tuesday that read something like: “CONGRATULATIONS!!! YOU ARE IN THE TOP 14!!!!! YOU ARE GOING TO NATIONALS!!!” As any of my friends that were at my table could tell you, I started freaking out. I had wanted desperately to go to the semi-finals, but due to the massive number of people I was up against, I had talked myself into believing that I was not going to get it so I wouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t win. Come July, mom and I flew to Chicago for the highly anticipated national competition. Besides the competition, I got to see two of my best friends who live there as well as the premier of Spongebob the Musical (which was surprisingly pretty good). In order to move onto the final round, I would have had to have placed at least third out of the fourteen of us left, which I did not. Those of us who didn’t move on were not told what place we had gotten.
The 2016 NATS competition was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in my entire life. I learned so much about myself as a performer and experienced so many amazing things that, going into 2016, I never thought I possibly had a chance at. I really cannot thank everyone enough that helped me on this journey, and I can’t wait to see what NATS 2017 has in store.