Newsletter Fall 2020

From the President


On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank you for being a member of the Greater Houston chapter of NATS. It was an honor to serve GHNATS as Vice President for the past four years. Special thanks to Angela Pickering for her phenomenal leadership as President and also to Donna Hinds Sawyers for being an incredible colleague and collaborator as the VP of Music Theater Auditions. We made a fantastic team!

If we have learned anything this year, it is how to be resilient in our work as voice teachers and singing professionals. I am very grateful for the resources NATS has provided to its members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I recommend checking out the NATS COVID Resource Page if you have not already done so. It is full of valuable information to assist us as we navigate the uncertain. From best practices for virtual instruction to the latest scientific studies on aerosol mitigation, this resource page covers topics that are tremendously helpful to us during this unprecedented time.

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the new competitions that NATS is introducing for the National Student Auditions and peruse the Video Submission Guidelines on the Audition Resource page. Following the recommendation of NATS and to ensure everyone’s health and safety, we are holding our auditions online this year due to the pandemic. Here are important dates to reserve in your calendar:

Michael Walsh


  • November 2-7, 2020 ONLINE CONFERENCE hosted by Texas Tech University
  • Conference registration opens September 1 and closes October 1. All audition videos will need to be uploaded into Auditionware by October 15. TEXOMA NATS


  • November 6-15, 2020 ONLINE AUDITIONS
  • Online registration opens October 1 and closes October 30. All audition videos will need to be uploaded into Auditionware by October 30.


  • March 20-27, 2021 ONLINE AUDITIONS
  • Online registration opens February 12 and closes March 12. All audition videos will need to be uploaded into Auditionware by March 12.

My two primary goals during my term as President are to increase our chapter participation and to diversify our membership to reflect the multicultural region in which we live. I ask each of you to reach out to voice teacher colleagues that are not members of NATS and encourage them to join this wonderful chapter. I would like our members to mirror the diversity of our beloved community.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Wishing you a healthy and productive year!

Michael Walsh

From the Chapter Past President


Dear colleagues,

It has been a true pleasure to be a part of the Greater Houston Chapter of NATS for the past sixteen years. Many of you who have been involved for some time can undoubtedly remember all the changes that have taken place over the past few years. However, 2020 has seemed to jettison us into the most change yet. Thankfully, we had an uber-capable Classical Auditions chair, Michael Walsh, who swiftly adapted to organize virtual auditions to offer our students continued opportunities to participate. That was followed by an outstanding online Winners’ Recital coordinated by Mikhail Smigelski. How fortunate we are to have such strong leadership on the board, and I’m thrilled, not only that Michael Walsh is moving into the role of President, but that the entire executive board is filled with outstanding professionals who are working to make sure our chapter has plenty of events and opportunities for members and their students this year. I wish each of you continued success in your teaching and making music, especially in this year of unprecedented change. You all are a testament to adaptability and resilience!

Angela Pickering

Angela Pickering

From the Vice President of Music Theatre Auditions


Dear fellow NATS members,

I am delighted to begin my term as GHNATS Vice President, Musical Theatre Auditions. My membership with NATS began in Canada in 1989 when I began teaching voice at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Alberta. In 2007, I moved to Texas from Canada with my family. I have been an adjunct voice instructor at Sam Houston State University in the Musical Theatre Department since 2015, and an adjunct professor of voice with Lonestar College in Montgomery since 2018. NATS has always been an important part of my studio, as a professional resource, and as a means of providing valuable performance and educational opportunities for my students.

In keeping with routine, GHNATS Musical Theatre Auditions will be held in the Fall semester, and due to the need for social distancing at this time, the event will be online.

Karen Rees

It is my hope that the GHNATS Musical Theatre Auditions will be an occasion for you and your students to joyfully experience the video performance medium. In addition to the Musical Theatre categories, GHNATS offers a CCM (Contemporary Commercial Music) category for singers aged 18 and up. Singers in this category may present pop, rock, jazz, country – just about anything you would hear on the radio.

As this is my first year facilitating the GHNATS Musical Theatre Auditions, I am very grateful for the guidance of our President, Michael Walsh and the GHNATS board members. I am excited to connect with you all online and in person in the future. Best wishes for a safe and successful year.

Dr. Karen Rees
Vice President, Musical Theatre Auditions

From the Vice President of Classical Auditions



It is my pleasure to serve the chapter as the new VP for Classical Auditions. Despite being in “new normal” due to Covid-19, I’m happy to say that the auditions will continue on with the aid of technology. Because we don’t yet know what the spring will hold for us, the Board has decided that it would be best to hold the classical auditions in a virtual format in 2021.
The 2021 Classical GH NATS audition dates will be as follows:

  • February 12, 2021: Audition registration opens
  • March 12, 2021: Registration closes (video links must be included in the registration)
  • March 20-22, 2021: Preliminary round judging
  • March 24-26, 2021: Finals round judging
  • March 27, 2021: Announcement of winners
Deborah Popham

If you and your students are participating in Texoma NATS, please be aware of the different timelines for video links deadlines. Texoma is permitting them to be added after registration closes, however, GH NATS will be using the same deadline for both links and registration.
There will be a business meeting and schedule permitting, a virtual workshop on March 27, along with a “live” announcement of winners through an online meeting. More information regarding the schedule of March 27, along with detailed audition information, will be sent out closer to the auditions.

I would like to say a special THANK YOU to Michael Walsh for not only making the switch from face-to-face auditions to virtual in a matter of weeks this past March, but for being so thorough in the process and all the while making it seem effortless. It was a valuable learning experience for all involved, singers and teachers alike. I am in the process of securing guest judges for the auditions, and because they will be virtual, we will be able to look much further outside our region than we have in the past, as well as assure that we have a diverse set of judges for our young singers. I hope that being virtual for the 2021 Classical Auditions will make it easier for all members to participate.

I wish you all a successful and healthy school year. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

Debi Popham

From the Vice President of Workshops


Hello, fellow NATS members and colleagues! My name is Sarah Lysiak Ging and I am pleased to be joining Greater Houston NATS as a first-time officer this year in the capacity of Vice President of Workshops. I am also an Adjunct Professor of Voice at Lone Star College-Montgomery and maintain an active private voice studio in the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area.

We are planning some very exciting workshops to take place virtually this year as we continue to face Covid-19 and the potentially harmful effects of in-person meetings. On November 15th, we will host a Musical Theater workshop that will take place prior to the announcement of winners from our GHNATS Musical Theater Competition. More information will be coming on the specifics of the presenter and workshop material! We are also exploring the possibility of a Mid-Winter Workshop in January or February which would feature master classes and a lecture presentation. On March 27th, in conjunction with GHNATS Classical Auditions, we will be fortunate to host a virtual workshop from Dr. James Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Voice & Voice Pedagogy at Texas Christian University.

Sarah Lysiak Ging

We look forward to presenting these high-caliber workshops that will engage and excite our students. If you have any questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact me. Best wishes to you all for a successful and productive year of teaching!

Sarah Lysiak Ging

From the Treasurer


I am happy to begin serving our chapter as treasurer for a second term! I currently teach at Houston Baptist University, where I serve as the chair of the music department and vocal area coordinator.

Our chapter is financially healthy, but you can help keep us in the black by keeping your membership current, and by participating in and registering students for Both our Fall Musical Theatre and Spring Classical competitions! This will ensure that we have sufficient funds for competitions, guest judges, prize money, workshops, winners’ recitals, and masterclasses.

Remember that in order to enter students at the various auditions, you must be up to date with both national and chapter dues. You should receive and use a reminder from national later this fall.

I wish everyone well and pray we all stay safe and in good health this year!

David Kirkwood, Treasurer

David Kirkwood

Membership Liaison Statement


As Membership Liaison, I would like to welcome you to Greater Houston NATS, whether you are a new or a long-standing member. GHNATS is a group of voice teachers, collaborative pianists/coaches who are passionate about teaching and furthering the vocal arts.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. I am supposed to be your connection with the GHNATS Board. Also, if you know of potential new members, please let me know and we GHNATS Board Members will reach out.

I look forward to “e-seeing” you or, hopefully, seeing you in person soon.

Kind regards,

Frances Fenton

Professor of Voice
Full-Time Faculty
Houston Community College
832-492-4721 (cell)

Frances Fenton