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April 10, 2001

Calvin Fares Well At Vocal Contest

A quintet of Calvin College students took top honors in a recent vocal competition for Michigan schools.

The competition was the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Michigan State Vocal Contest. NATS is a national association of vocal instructors who teach at all grade levels and may work for a school or be independently employed. Students at the Michigan State Vocal Competition competed in 17 different categories based upon age and grade level, ranging from beginning high school to graduate level students.

There was a field of about 150 participants, representing schools from all over Michigan. Calvin competitors were:

"When you're in the heat of battle, preparation level really shows through; it either hinders, if you haven't prepared enough, or it helps," says Music Professor Mark Moliterno (above), who worked with department colleague Charsie Sawyer to ensure their students were well prepared.

Under their guidance, each singer began preparing three pieces several months in advance. Once Moliterno and Sawyer chose works from the required genres of Opera, Foreign Language Art Music, and 20th Century English Language Art Music, they and the students worked together in private lessons to perfect the vocal quality, expression of text, command of foreign languages, and musicianship that they would be judged on. Students also built their confidence by performing in front of their peers at a weekly repertoire class.

At the end of the competition, the winner of each category performed in front of all the competitors and instructors. "I received a blessing by seeing [the students] succeed," says Moliterno. "It was a thrill for me to hear their names announced and see them up there singing."

This was the first time Calvin had competed at NATS in over a decade. Sawyer and Moliterno (who is in his first year at Calvin from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro) say the decision to compete is reflective of a new energy and direction for the Calvin music department.

"We're trying to reach out to the community," Moliterno says. "Engagement with the world as singers is a big part of what [our students] are learning how to do." Below is more info on Calvin's five winners.

Rachel Ridder is vocal performance major and business minor from Lake Odessa, MI, where she graduated from Lakewood High School. She is a member of Calvin's Cappella Choir, sings on the worship team at Lake Odessa Christian Reformed Church, currently heads a prison ministry that teaches and learns music with the choir at the Michigan Reformatory, and also teaches voice lessons. She finished in first place in the 4th-year college women category. After graduating from Calvin, Ridder hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a career as an opera singer.

Says Ridder, "Music is how I worship God - it is such an emotional and personal thing at times. I also love being able to go out there and use the gift that He has given me. I love being able to bring enjoyment to people, whether it's through a choir, church, a recital, an opera...anything."

Maggie Heffner is a Vocal Performance (concentrating on opera performance) major from Spring City, PA, where she graduated from Owen J. Roberts High School. She transferred to Calvin this year from Oberlin in order to study with Prof. Moliterno. She hopes to perform in operas and concerts all over the world, and hopes to audition for Young Artist programs in Santa Fe, San Francisco, Seattle, and other big cities once she graduates from Calvin. She finished in first place in the 3rd year college women category.

Says Heffner, "Music is a gift from God, for all people. Singing is just one of the million ways that we can 'preach' God's message. Winning the NATS was not for ourselves or Calvin directly, but for God."

Cameron McCabe is a Vocal Performance Major from Gibsonia, PA, where she graduated from Pine-Richland Highschool. She is a member of Calvin's Lyric Singers, Oratorio Society, and is a member of the steering committee of Calvin's Gospel Choir. She is also on the worship team at Northway Christian Community, the church she attends at home in Pennsylvania. She finished in second place in the 1st-year college women category. McCabe hopes to earn a masters degree in performance and to go into a career singing Opera.

Says McCabe, "Music has an unexplainable effect on people and can draw out such a large range of emotions. It has always been something really special to me, even before I sang. I really just love to see people's faces when they've just connected with a song I sang or with a feeling I've tried to portray. The freedom to express myself through music is something that can't be replaced."

Mandi R. Hutchins (formerly known as Mandi Elkins before she got married 8 months ago) is a CAS-Theatre Major from Three Rivers, Michigan and a graduate of Three Rivers High School. She hopes to join an opera company after graduating from Calvin, and this summer she will be involved with the Heritage Theatre Company in a production of The Taming of the Shrew. She finished in second place in the 3rd-year college women category.

Says Hutchins, "When you're in an opera, it's the biggest rush because it's your daydreams and superhero life played out. There's music and everything about it is big and grand. It's one of the most exhilirating experiences I've ever had in my life."

Shannon DeYoung is a Premed/Psychology Major, but music also plays a very important role in her life. She is from Germantown, TN, and graduated from Germantown High School, where she was instructed in voice by Jemmi-Lou Rushing. She finished in fourth place in the 1st-year college women category. DeYoung sings Soprano 1 in Calvin's Lyric Singers and also plays violin in the Calvin Orchestra. Upon graduation DeYoung plans to go to med school and to continue playing and singing throughout life, using her talents in church and wherever else they may come in handy.

Says DeYoung, "I really love the way music enables you to express yourself. Music is a major part of my life and I have a lot of goals for my personal success in music. I think that if God gives you something you should definitely develop it and let it grow to the best it can be."

--written by media relations writer Abe Huyser-Honing (class of 2004)

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