By Jordan Beach
Reinhardt’s School of Performing Arts thrived at this year’s annual Southeastern Region National Association of Teachers Singing (SERNATS) competition with several earning semi-finalist positions for the national level competition. This year’s SERNATS competition was held in an online platform.
Fourteen of Reinhardt’s Performing Arts students placed at the regional competition, which includes students from Georgia, Florida and Alabama, providing them the opportunity to advance to the preliminary round the national level. Among these students, Riley Ortega, Trevor Watkins and Trey Wilkerson were chosen as semi-finalists and will once again compete in an online format this month. From there, the top 14 in the country will compete in their categories, with students from across the country, and the top three finalists will go on to be judged during the Virtual National Conference at the end of June.
“I am especially proud of all of the students who competed at the regional level this year. We had very little warning that the competition was moved from in person to online, and the students and their wonderful pianists put forth significant efforts to ensure they filmed quality submissions,” said Dr. Rebecca Salter, associate professor of music.
“Since 2015, Reinhardt has consistently had national semi-finalists, as well as a number of finalists, which attests to the high quality of our program,” said Dr. Reverie Berger, associate professor of music and voice area coordinator.
Southeastern Region NATS Student Audition Winners
First Year College Treble Voice - Riley Ortega
Second Year Music Theater Treble Voice - Katie Hartel
Second Year Music Theater Tenor/Bass/Baritone (TBB) Voice - Trey Wilkerson
Second Year College Treble Voice - Hannah Reich
Second Year College TBB Voice - Trey Wilkerson
Third Year Music Theater TBB Voice - Slade Searcy
Third Year College TBB Voice - Slade Searcy
Fourth/Fifth Year College Treble Voice - Alexandra Chappell
First Year Music Theater Treble Voice - Riley Ortega
Second Year College Treble Voice - Elizabeth Andrews
First Year Music Theater Treble Voice - Elana Sobhani
Fourth/Fifth Year Music Theater TBB Voice - Alan Stein
Finalists (Top 5 in Category):
First Year Music Theater Treble Voice - Maegan Green
Second Year Music Theater TBB Voice - Trevor Watkins
Wilkerson is a junior Musical Theatre major competing and qualifying for NATS for the second consecutive year. He explains the process of the competition as unique and educational. With this year’s online format, Wilkerson struggled with filming videos of his performances, feeling as if they weren’t good enough for the competition.
“We were required to film the musical numbers we would normally perform in person at the competition. I competed in both the musical theatre and classical categories, so I had to film six individual videos. All the work was well worth it in the end when I won both categories and qualified for the national competition again.”
Wilkerson attributes his success at SERNATS to the “continuous guidance” from his “wonderful educators at Reinhardt University,” especially Salter, his voice teacher.
“I would honestly describe her as a vocal magician,” said Wilkerson. “She has the amazing ability to enhance my vocal skill and strength on anything that I happen to be performing or working on. She inspires me to not only strive for excellence in my musical endeavors, but to also continuously work at being a kind and supportive individual. I owe so much of my success to her and her knowledge.”
In addition to Salter, Wilkerson appreciates his time working with Wanda Cantrell as his pianist, as she always pushes him to be a better musician.
“My singing would only be senseless noise without the musically artistry of Mrs. Cantrell...I will forever by thankful for her unending love and support. In some way or another I have grown from all the instruction I have received from everyone at Reinhardt and my success in this competition is the culmination of all the one on one attention and refinement I have received.”
While the online format presented challenges, Wilkerson feels the experience provided a sense of familiarity for future online competition or auditions.
As a semifinalists, Wilkerson, Ortega and Watkins are eligible to participate in the NATS online convention, providing masterclasses and workshops.
Ortega, a freshman vocal performance major, competed in SERNATS for the first in her junior year of high school. She studied and competed in NATS with Salter since 2017.
“My voice teacher and mentor, Dr. Salter, helped me immensely,” said Ortega. “When I recorded my submissions, she made sure each one was perfect and something I would be proud of. She’s so supportive and knows my voice so well. I definitely couldn’t have done this without her.”
Ortega is excited for the national competition, even with the virtual format.
“I am so blessed to have been given so many opportunities to share my talent. Even though all the workshops and classes will be online this year, I’m still eager to learn all that I can. Regardless of how the competition turns out, I’m so honored to have gotten this far.”