CCNATS May/June Newsletter

CCNATS May/June Newsletter

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In this newsletter...


Letter from the president...

Dear Chicago NATS Members,

We have come to the end of another successful season for Chicago NATS and it’s time to reflect on our year.
We had so many great workshop opportunities to expand our teaching abilities thanks to the work of our members both in the chapter and from our parent organization.  I want to thank to Stephen Smith, Lorraine Sims, Chad Ballantyne, Julia Davids, and Karen Brunssen for sharing their knowledge with us.   I also want to thank all of our workshop hosts:  Concordia College, DePaul University, North Park University, Tracey Ford, and Theresa Brancaccio.
Our competitions were a great success.  We heard wonderful performances from all over our region.  Both the Chicago High School for the Performing Arts and Wheaton College graciously allowed us to use their facilities and dynamite staff.  Please visit our Facebook page for videos of the winners.
This end of the season also marks the end of my three year tenure as president.  I can’t believe it’s been six years since I joined the board.  I want to thank all of our members who have helped support and encourage the board through these six years.  I especially want to thank all of the board members I’ve worked with who have devoted their personal time and efforts to help me steer our organization.  I am grateful for the opportunity to serve you and I humbly thank you.
We also bid goodbye to Jessica Coe who will be retiring from her position as Director of Workshops.  We wish her success as she starts her life in Grand Rapids. 
Over the next few months the board will elect new leadership.  Formal announcements will be made in August at the beginning of the 2015/2016 season.  This next season will be particularly interesting as Chicago is hosting the 2016 National Convention.  I encourage all of you to attend this event.
I hope you all have a wonderful spring and summer and I look forward to seeing you when I’m back in the judge’s seat at the competitions.


David Hoffman
President, Chicago NATS 
2014-2015 Chicago NATS Board 

David Hoffman, President
Tracey Ford, Vice President and Director of Membership
Denise Knowlton, Co-Director of Competitions
Terry Strandt, Co-Director of Competitions
Jessica Coe, Director of Workshops
Erin Matonte, Director of Communications
Rebecca Ryan, Assistant Director of Communications
Matthew Ellenwood, Co-Director of Finance
Paul Thompson, Co-Director of Finance
Keven Keys, Competitions and Workshops
Orna Arania, Workshops and Finance
Gaye Klopack, Competitions and Membership
Paul Grizzell, Communications and Membership
Klaus Georg, Junior Board Member, CCSNATS Co-Advisor 
Allison Rozsa Evans, Junior Board Member, CCSNATS Co-Advisor
Jennifer Mather, Junior Board Member
Rebecca Schorsch, Junior Board Member, CCSNATS Co-Advisor


Membership Update from Tracey Ford, Vice President
New Member
Welcome Kenneth Donovan to Chicago Chapter of NATS!
Congratulations to Dr. Chadley Ballantyne, who recently completed his D.M.A. in Vocal Performance and Literature form the University of Illinois. Be sure to watch for Dr. Chadley Ballantyne's future scholarly work in vocal acoustics!
Congratulations to Angela Young Smucker and Chadley Ballantyne who were both selected for the prestigious NATS Intern Program. More than 60 applications were considered for this program and we are very proud that 2 of the 12 members selected are from the Chicago Chapter.

Member Events
On Sunday, April 19th, Teresa Brancaccio hosted a member event at her home. CCNATS member, Chadley Ballantyne, led a discussion of Kenneth Bozeman's book, Practical Vocal Acoustics. Chadley created detailed study questions, and led us through the complicated terrain of vocal acoustics with clarity!  He also demonstrated Donald Miller's software Voce Vista, and showed us how it can be incorporated into the voice studio. It was an extremely stimulating gathering and we hope to meet again to discuss acoustics with Chadley Ballantyne!

Karen Brunssen and Julia Davids gave an informative presentation on their work with training voices through life stages on Sunday, April 19th.  Thank you to North Park University for hosting this event!

Thank you to all members who supported our student competitions this year as volunteers and judges.
Upcoming Events
Please mark your calendars for two concerts at Grant Park this summer where CCNATS will save a space for you to enjoy the concert!
A Sondheim Celebration - Saturday, July 11th, 8:00 pm
Stars of Lyric, Date has not yet been announced
Competitions Update from Denise Knowlton, Co-Director of Competitions 

Below are the winners for the 2014-2015 Classical and Musical Theater Competitions.  Our Chapter is lucky to have such a talented group of students!  Feel free to visit our YouTube page to view all the winners. Click here to access the videos!

Musical Theater Competition Winners

MT1 - High School Freshmen
Third Place - Matthew Yaniz, student of Chadley Ballantyne
Second Place - Hope Johansen, student of David Hoffman
First Place - Katharine Bartoz, student of Lisa Griffith
MT2 - High School Sophomores
Honorable Mention - Ariana Burks, student of A.J. Wester
Honorable Mention - Lily Piekos, student of Lisa Griffith
Second Place - Caitlin Palmisano, student of Chadley Ballantyne
First Place - Katherine Wild, student of Janice Pantazelos
MT3 - High School Juniors
Honorable Mention - Leikyn Bravo, student of John Hacker
Honorable Mention - Christine Boddicker, student of A.J. Wester
Third Place - Taylor Moran, student of Janice Pantazelos
Second Place - Tyler Long, student of John Hacker
First Place - Kate Jarecki, student of Melissa Foster
MT4 - High School Seniors
Honorable Mention - Rachael Henderson, student of Chadley Ballanty
Third Place - Zach Palmisano, student of Chadley Ballantyne
Second Place - Emilie Kouatchou, student of Mary LeGere
First Place - Noel Price, student of Denise Knowlton
MT5 - College Freshmen
Honorable Mention - Adam Brody, student of Kelli N Morgan
Third Place - Elisa Germond, student of Barbara Ann Martin
Second Place - Timothy Foszcz, student of Mary LeGere
First Place - Neal Davidson, student of Melissa Foster
MT6 - College Sophomores
Third Place - Chris Cunningham, student of Mary LeGere
Second Place - Leah Platt, student of Melissa Foster
First Place - Helen Knudsen, student of Mark Crayton
MT7 - College Juniors
Honorable Mention - Lindsey Olson, student of Melissa Foster
Honorable Mention - Jamie Yarmoff, student of Kelli N Morgan
Third Place - Trevor Vanderzee, student of Marc Embree
Second Place - Maisie Rose, student of Melissa Foster
First Place - Elizabeth Romero, student of Melissa Foster
MT8 - College Seniors
Second Place - Drew Tildon, student of Kelli Morgan
First Place - Christine Jones, student of Kelli Morgan

MT9 - College Graduates and Graduates
Honorable Mention - Janessa Fisk Davis, student of Terry Strandt
Honorable Mention - Suzanna Ziko, student of Paul Thompson
Third Place - Anson Woodin, student of Sarah Johnson
Second Place - Aaron Godwin, student of Sarah Johnson
First Place - Lauren Paris, student of Melissa Foster

Classical Competition Winners

HSC1 - High School Freshmen
Third Place - Caleb Hacker, student of John Hacker
Second Place - Katharine Bartoz, student of Lisa Griffith
First Place - Elisabeth Mies, student of Beth Ann Swinson
HSC2 - High School Sophomores
Third Place - Olivia Guntin, student of John Hacker
Second Place - Ariana Smith, student of Tracey Elaine Ford
First Place - Caitlin Palmisano, student of Chadley Ballantyne
HSC3 - High School Juniors
Third Place - Dana Pepowski, student of Dorothy-Jean Lloyd
Second Place - Nina St. Preux, student of Natalie Chami
First Place - Angela Peterson, student of Dorothy-Jean Lloyd
HSC4 - High School Seniors
Honorable Mention - Zuliashley Ortiz, student of Natalie Chami
Honorable Mention - Ananda Badili, student of Natalie Chami
Third Place - Asya Taylor, student of A.J. Wester
Second Place - Emma Webster, student of Ingrid Mueller
First Place - Crystal Muro, student of Barbara Staley
CC1 - College Freshmen
Honorable Mention - Jason Martin, student of David Hoffman
Third Place - Michaela Gleason, student of Judith Haddon
Second Place - Craig Moman, student of Sarah Holman
First Place - Elisa  Germond, student of Barbara Ann Martin
CC2 - College Sophomores
Honorable Mention - Helen Knudsen, student of Mark Crayton
Honorable Mention - Margaret Schlofner, student of Elizabeth Byrne-Asher
Third Place - Samantha Baran, student of Karen Brunssen
Second Place - Rebecca Rice, student of Carolyn Hart
First Place - Jacob Schweizer, student of Terry Strandt
CC3 - College Juniors
Honorable Mention - Kacie Mercer, student of Cynthia Clarey
Third Place - Onella Piyatilake, student of Annie Picard
Second Place - Brandon Sokol, student of Michael Sylvester
First Place - Jennie Moser, student of Theresa Brancaccio
CC4 - College Seniors
Honorable Mention - Patrick ZurSchmiede, student of Carolyn Hart
Third Place - Haley Vick, student of Mark Crayton
Second Place - Marie Engle, student of Karen Brunssen
First Place - Gabriel Wernick, student of Theresa Brancaccio
CC5 - College Graduates

Honorable Mention - Karina Valle, student of Judith Haddon
Second Place - Anna Parks, student of Mark Crayton
First Place - Gabrielle Sarcone, student of Judith Haddon
CC6 - College Graduates
Honorable Mention - Valdis Gregory, student of Judith Haddon
Third Place - Gisella Milla, student of Mark Crayton
Second Place - Janessa Davis, student of Terry Strandt
First Place - Rachelle Austin, student of Judith Haddon

Announcement from Kathleen Van De Graaff, NATS District Governor of Illinois 

Dear Teachers:  

It’s hard to believe that it has been over 20 years now since I first started working with NATS—first as a board member, then as treasurer and president for CCNATS and now as district governor for the past 4 years.  My favorite part of NATS is getting to know the members of this organization and talking about pedagogy!   I have so enjoyed getting to know you and working with you.  I have appreciated all of you who have donated so many hours to help other teachers and singers.  It has been a pleasure for me to work with you.  My 4 year tenure as IL district governor is ending and I wanted to wish you well in your endeavors.  I look forward to seeing you in the future.

Best wishes

Katheen van de Graaff

Lake Forest College Music Camps

Vocal Arts Academy
June 21-26, 2015
Ages 14-18. Classical and musical theater singers. We will be working on developing the "complete singer." Classes include vocal technique, stage presence, diction, theory, sight reading and musicality. There will also be daily master classes and a final recital. 
Musical Theater Camp for Kids
Ages 8-13 We will be working on singing, dancing and acting skills.
More information:
Announcement from Karen Brunssen, Central Region NATS Governor

News from Central Region NATS:  Pedagogy:  Enhanced and Informed

*  The Central Region NATS first ever “Call for Presentations” was a huge success.  33 Proposals from Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri

*  Neal Woodruff is the Illinois District Governor-elect and will assume those responsibilities as of June 1st.  HUGE thanks to Kathleen Van de Graaff for FOUR years as Illinois District Governor.  Her leadership has been strong and innovative, particularly with the You-Tube Illinois District NATS auditions this past fall.  THANK YOU KATHLEEN!!!!

*   MARK YOUR CALENDARS:  The CRNATS Region NATS Conference and Student Auditions needs to be in your calendars now.  Make plans to attend.  In August start to watch for information about housing, when registration will begin, and all the details about the Conference portion of our event.  There will be  lots for everyone to experience and learn while there….students and teachers.

*  Central Region NATS Conference and Student Auditions, Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, IL, November 13 & 14, 2015

Member Announcements 

A.J. Wester is in the process of scheduling auditions for the solo voice program at the Merit School of Music.  All the important details are below.   Please click here to access additional information. 

Merit School of Music is pleases to announce auditions for the solo voice program at  the Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory.  It is a wonderful opportunity for serious voice students. The Conservatory, our most advanced program at Merit, meets on Saturdays in the West Loop (38 South Peoria, Chicago, IL).  The Saturday core curriculum consists of four classes – Large Ensemble (Choir, Vocal Jazz, Opera/Musical Theater), Vocal Technique Group Class, Music Theory, and attendance at our Live from Gottlieb Series (a 45 minute concert at noon featuring Chicagoland professionals).

The solo voice program at Merit is also in collaboration with Lyric Opera of Chicago and their Vocal Partnerships program created by internationally renown soprano, Renée Fleming and Lyric Unlimited. 

· The Conservatory program is free to all participants (beyond an annual $125.00 registration fee)
· Auditions take place on May 2nd (new students) and 9th (returning students), 2015.  Any advanced students in grades 4 - 12 are welcome to audition. Vocalists may explore a concentration in classical, jazz, or musical theater. New students must complete an Online Registration Form.
· Participation in the Conservatory will enhance the music learning process for students and support what they are already learning in their home and schools.  
· Visit for more information.

If you have any questions feel free to email NATS member A.J. Wester at 

Liz Jackson, soprano will hold a Open House Recital at Jackson Voice Lab on Saturday, May 9th from 5:00-8:30 pm at St. Peters Episcopal Church, 621 W. Belmont Avenue, Chicago IL.  She will be performing with Alexandra Plattos, soprano and George Tenegal, piano.  Please click here for additional information.

Former board member Patrice Michaels will be performing at the following events:

Cathy Heifetz Memorial Concert
Saturday, May 30, 8:00 pm
Sunday, June 1, 3:00 pm
University of Chicago, Mandel Hall
Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem, James Kallembach, conductor
Donation requested $10/$5 students
773 702.8484

Make Music Chicago/Rush Hour Concerts presents
INTERSECTION: Jazz Meets Classical Song
Sunday, June 21, 1:00 pm
Kuang-Hao Huang, piano and Larry Gray, bass
Chicago Cultural Center
Free admission/live b’cast on WDCB 90.9FM

Member Profiles

Below are this edition's highlighted Chicago NATS members.  Enjoy!   
--Profile Questions--
1.  What made you become interested in pursuing a music career?
2.  Where did you receive your training and how has it affected your singing and teaching?
3.  What do you consider to be one of the most important foundational concepts in healthy singing?
4.  What do you love most about teaching?
5.  Who is your favorite composer and why? 

-Theresa Brancaccio-
1.  For me, it was a natural progression. I loved to sing and act starting in the second grade with choirs and school shows and began to study voice privately at the age of 13. The passion, energy and encouragement I felt from my voice and choral directors throughout my high school and university years inspired me and confirmed that music would be my career path.

2.  I earned both Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Vocal Performance from Northwestern University. I had great mentors such as Norman Gulbrandsen (voice teacher), Grigg Fountain (director of Chapel Choir), Lawrence Davis (coach in collaborative performance) and Robert Gay (opera director). I also I coached languages and phrasing outside Northwestern with Lola Rand for almost twenty years.  All of these people shaped my musical thinking in profound ways and from different perspectives.

3.  Stability with flexibility. Such a general concept, yet it can be applied to all facets of singing such as breath support/flow (having the sense of appoggio/antagonistic muscular resistance, while maintaining a buoyant ribcage and not locking the body); resonance (allowing the tongue to release from its base so it can freely define the vowels and boost the intensity of sound in conjunction with a free throat and stable larynx); and life, in general (being focused and confident in who we are and what we believe, but not rigid. We can always learn.).

4.  I love the "light-bulb moments" when a concept suddenly makes sense and the singer is able to employ technique more unconsciously at the service of expression and artistry.

5.  How about if I agree to list 2 of my favorite composers? They would be JS Bach and Richard Strauss for the adventurousness of their harmonies which convey such intense and varied emotions for me.


-Angela Korbitz-

1.  My interest in pursuing a music career began in 8th grade when I became more serious about my piano studies.  My mother was a general music teacher and my older sister began her college career as a voice major, so I knew that choosing music as a career would be a demanding yet rewarding experience.

2.    Where did you receive I earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Roosevelt University.  This training affected my singing and teaching for different reasons.  At the University of Illinois I was completely immersed in music and was surrounded by outstanding musicians.  I enjoyed attending all of the recitals, loved singing in the operas, and going to concerts at Krannert Center.  I feel that going to Roosevelt University and studying with Maria Lagios gave me the focused study that I needed in order to grow vocally.   Maria inspired me to sing at a higher level and broke down many barriers for me.  The skills that I learned in lessons piqued my curiosity in vocal pedagogy and it was during graduate school that I became more interested in teaching singing.
3.  I think that we can get overwhelmed with all of the details of singing.  One of the most foundational concepts in singing is recognizing that the whole body is involved and that a technical issue such as jaw or tongue tension can be the result of the body not being aligned and the core muscles not working well.

4.   I love hearing my students improve and seeing them sing with confidence.

5.  It is difficult to choose a favorite composer!  During the past two years my favorite composers have been Rossini and Donizetti.  I also adore Handel, Debussy, and Poulenc.


-Amy Pickering-

1.  The path to my music career, as it is now, took a rather circuitous route, as I was raised by incredibly loving but non-musical parents (I’m adopted) in northwest Ohio. After an aunt noticed that I was playing recognizable melodies on the toy piano at three years of age, my parents decided it might be a good idea to have me start piano lessons at age five, something for which I will be eternally grateful.  Again, this being rural northwest Ohio, I began singing country music in public at a very young age, even warming up for Loretta Lynn at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts at the age of ten. I participated in the high school musicals and choral ensembles, and I studied privately with my high school choir director to prepare for OMEA solo and ensemble competitions, but I hadn’t really thought about pursuing music as a career. In fact, I really wanted to be a doctor and took Latin and anatomy and physiology to prepare. But then a miracle occurred:  my parents found my gift of music so novel and wonderful that they encouraged me to pursue music as a college major.

 2.  I earned my Bachelor of Music from DePaul University and my Master of Music from Northwestern University. DePaul was a perfect fit for me back in 1988 – small school, big city. Even though I came to DePaul with little knowledge and lots of reservations, my first quarter at DePaul -- being surrounded by music, learning art song, seeing my first opera – had me thinking, “What is this magic, and where has it been my whole life???” Harry Silverstein, the opera director at DePaul, has been hugely influential in my singing and teaching – he encouraged us to always use the music to help get to the truth of whatever we were singing, which almost always helped to free any extraneous body tension. Thomas Brown’s vocal literature and history of opera classes were so crammed with information and wonderful anecdotes that it made your head spin. He also didn’t settle for anything but your absolute best work, whether singing or writing, and I am most grateful for that. I took a bit of time off between undergraduate and graduate studies and was fortunate to study with Judith Haddon, who lined my voice up beautifully for my graduate work at Northwestern, where I learned more in a year than one would think possible – private voice with Sunny Joy Langton, who helped me discover high notes without sacrificing anything on the bottom, coaching with Alan Darling and Tim Shaindlin, repertoire classes with Mignon Dunn, Kurt Hanson, and William Warfield (oh, the stories!) and opera under the direction of Michael Ehrman. It seems that not a day goes by where I do not think of at least one of them.

 3.  I like to use the “whole body” and “the body is your instrument” approach. Keeping the body as aligned as possible when practicing and knowing how efficiently the breath can work when the body is being used well can correct a multitude of sins. Also, the whole body approach includes the head and heart, of course. The connection to the text can work wonders to ease tension in the body.

4.  I love the challenge of identifying technical issues with singers as well as incorporating some of the wonderful technology available to us to address them, but more than anything, I love the connection that comes from making music with another person. I love the whole “discovery” process; whether it’s a new singer’s goggled-eyed expression at learning that s/he can reach notes above and below anything they ever dreamed of, or a more seasoned singer’s joy at consistently being able to incorporate the concept of appoggio. There’s also nothing quite like having the opportunity to nerd out over poetry and music with students. Sometimes their observations have me convulsing with laughter, and other times their insights can leave me almost speechless with amazement.

 5.  This week, it’s Mozart. Because, well, it’s Mozart. Last week, when I was feeling the need to line up my voice, I pulled out some Bach, and then all was right with the world. The week before that, I couldn’t get enough Mahler. THIS IS SO HARD!!! Actually, I have a bit of a soft spot for all things Brahms, particularly his vocal and piano music. So luscious. As a young piano student, I loved playing Brahms. In fact, as a young pianist, I much preferred Brahms and Beethoven to Mozart. The brilliant subtlety of Mozart’s music was perhaps lost on my teenage sensibilities, and the moodier, romantic music of Brahms and Beethoven was a better outlet for all of that teenage angst. However, once I participated in my first Mozart opera at DePaul, Mozart catapulted to the top of my favorite composer list. Ask me again next week…

Chicago Chapter of Student NATS (CCSNATS) Announcements

Chicago Chapter of Student NATS would like to thank our wonderful advisor and  clinician, Dr. Klaus Georg, for a fantastic masterclass of German and Italian repertoire on April 11. All involved left inspired and enlightened!

As usual, we encourage all NATS members to inform their students to become a member of SNATS by sharing and visiting! Here is the info of our final event of the season. While it is our final event until the fall, we encourage many new faces to make it their first event!

CSSNATS Spring Salon
Tuesday, May 19th
7:00-9:00 pm
Comfort Station in Logan Square
2579 N Milwaukee
Chicago, IL 60647

Join CCSNATS for a casual evening of songs and arias as we celebrate the Spring season! Singers, stop by the Comfort Station between 7pm&9pm to share a song of your choice with the community! Free live music and delicious cookies! All are welcome to attend.

Kyle Sackett and the Board of CCSNATS


CCNATS receives its funding primarily through member fees ($20 per person, per year), and is run completely by unpaid volunteers. Please consider making a general donation to help offset the costs of workshops, competitions, or professional development events. If you are interested in sponsoring a specific event, please contact David Hoffman.

Thank you in advance for your support! 

Copyright © 2015 Chicago Chapter NATS, All rights reserved.
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