Newsletter Fall 2021

From the President


Dear members of the Greater Houston Chapter of NATS,

Congrats to our chapter for celebrating 51 years since its founding! I know the past year has been one for the books, but I am excited about the plans the GHNATS Board has made for our members and their students this season. We are taking the ‘when life hands you lemons, make lemonade’ approach due to the ongoing pandemic. We always keep the health and safety of our members and their students in mind when planning our events. As such, we are currently employing a hybrid modality for our auditions with the preliminary rounds virtual and the finals held in-person before a panel of judges. We appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we continue to monitor and assess the latest information available regarding the modality in which the auditions will be held. We will move to fully virtual events if it is deemed unsafe to hold public singing events.

I continue to be grateful for the resources NATS has provided to its members in response to COVID-19. I recommend checking out the NATS COVID Resource Page for the latest information on teaching during the pandemic. It is full of valuable information to assist us as we continue to sing during this time. Be sure to view the Reentry following COVID-19: Concerns for Singers as well. 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 challenging time. “In an effort to continue speaking with a unified voice on the importance of the singing community becoming as fully vaccinated as possible, our organizations have issued this joint statement which we are sharing widely,” says Allen Henderson, executive director of NATS. “We urge everyone to become fully vaccinated as soon as possible. We collectively support public health education efforts at the local, state, and national level that offer accurate information about vaccine efficacy and safety and that encourage all persons to become vaccinated.”

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the singing competitions and new categories that NATS has recently introduced for the National Student Auditions on the Audition Resource page. Here are important dates to reserve in your calendar for this season:

Michael Walsh


  • November 3-6, 2021- VIRTUAL 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 13, 2021- HYBRID AUDITIONS- Preliminary rounds virtual/Finals live*
  • Online registration opens October 1 and closes October 29. All audition videos will need to be uploaded into Auditionware by October 29. Greater Houston NATS


  • March 19, 2022- HYBRID AUDITIONS- Preliminary rounds virtual/Finals live*
  • Registration deadlines will be announced via email and on the chapter website at a later date. Greater Houston NATS

*Subject to virtual modality if it is deemed unsafe to hold public singing events.

We are fortunate to have a talented and diverse group of voice professionals in our chapter. In 1970, there were just 14 GHNATS members and now we are 85 members strong. This is almost twenty more members than two years ago. Please continue to reach out to your voice teacher colleagues that are not members of NATS and encourage them to join this remarkable chapter. The more, the merrier!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am honored to serve as the chapter president, and I wish you all the very best for your studios this year. Happy singing!

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 GHNATS members,

Whether we are Zooming or going live, it feels great to be getting back into our voice studios! As we continue to navigate the new and everchanging terrain that comes with the pandemic, the GHNATS Board is offering the 2021 Music Theater auditions in hybrid format with a contingency plan for a fully virtual event should there be a change in COVID-19 protocols.
The preliminary round will once again be virtual and offers students the opportunity to video their performances with a live or recorded piano accompaniment. The final round is currently planned as a live event at LSC-Montgomery. If protocols for COVID-19 shift, we will communicate the changes that will impact participants and teachers should we need to transition the final round to an online format. To assist with the possibility of a change from a live to an online format for the finals, when registering your students please indicate on each student form their song of choice for finals should they advance.

Karen Rees

The dates for the 2021 GHNATS Music Theater auditions are as follows:

  • October 1 – Audition registration begins
  • October 29 – Audition registration ends. Video links must be included by this date
  • November 1-7 – Preliminary round judging (online)
  • November 13 – Finals round judging

As previously mentioned, the finals are planned to be a live event unless impacted by changes in the COVID-19 situation. Finalists will perform live with an accompanist. Please check ahead with your accompanists regarding their availability for Saturday, November 13th in the event your students advance to the finals. For live finals, students will perform with live accompaniment. Should there be the need to switch to online finals, the video link that is marked with an asterisk on the registration form (as their Finals selection) will be forwarded to the guest judge panel.

In keeping with the schedule from previous years, the chapter meeting for the membership will be held on the morning of November 13 followed by finalist performances and judging. A masterclass/workshop for the students and teachers will be presented and the day will close with the announcement of the winners. We have an exciting panel of guest judges and a renowned guest clinician lined up for the final round. Our guest judges are all active professionals working as performers, directors, writers, and creatives with Houston based performance organizations.

As we continue to move forward, I hope that this year is one of growth and new experiences for all of us as teachers and for our students. Thank you for helping your students to prepare for the Music Theater student auditions. Please do encourage your students to register for the Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) category as well. The CCM category is an excellent opportunity for young singers to develop their performance skills with a microphone while exploring the commercial music genres that have become vocal staples in musical theatre repertoire. Young singer songwriters are encouraged to perform original songs and accompany themselves on acoustic instruments in the CCM category. In the industry today, musical theatre singers are required to perform in all vocal styles and play instruments. Many are branching into the commercial music industry alongside their musical theatre careers as well as becoming leading creative contributors to the new musical theatre sphere. The CCM category offers students the opportunity to expand their repertoire and performance experience in this genre.

I send my warmest wishes to you all for a truly great year and I look forward to seeing you and your students in the near future. If you have any questions or concerns, please do reach out to me at:

Kind regards,
Dr. Karen Rees

From the Vice President of Classical Auditions


It is my pleasure to serve again as the VP for Classical Auditions this year. While last year was definitely not the year we had hoped for, we still had a successful year of auditions aided by our online technology. We also saw a number of first-time teachers participating in the Classical auditions, which was wonderful. We hope to see you back next year!

With the pandemic still going strong in Texas, the GHNATS Board has decided that a hybrid option will be best for the upcoming year. We want to have a live element to the auditions, but in a way that will limit crowds and keep people healthy. With that in mind, it was decided that the first round will be online with teachers adjudicating the videos. Those singers that advance to the finals round will sing in-person for our guest judges. I think this is a wonderful compromise that will allow some singers to perform live while still allowing all students to get valuable audition feedback from our member adjudicators.

The dates of deadlines for videos and online adjudications are still being determined and will be emailed out later. The live finals event will take place on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Please mark this date in your calendar if you plan to attend. On behalf of GHNATS, I am very grateful to Dr. Brady Knapp for helping secure this location and their facilities.

I wish everyone a safe and healthy year. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions at
Debi Popham

Deborah Popham

From the Vice President of Workshops


Hello, everyone! My name is Lee Gregory, and I teach voice at Lone Star College-Montgomery.

I am excited to be joining the Greater Houston Chapter of NATS as Interim Vice President of Workshops.

I am very pleased to announce the inimitable Jeanie LoVetri, founder and director of Somatic Voicework, as clinician for our Music Theater Auditions. She will be holding a virtual masterclass on November 13 immediately before the announcement of the winners. Information about her groundbreaking approach to CCM vocal style and performance can be found at Somatic Voicework Teachers Association. This will certainly be a stimulating and inspiring workshop not to be missed.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the name of the workshop presenter for the Classical Auditions on March 19, 2022. I guarantee it will be another exciting class!

Lee Gregory

Dr. Lee Gregory

From the Treasurer


Howdy from your friendly neighborhood Greater Houston NATS Treasurer! I’m pleased to serve the chapter under Michael’s great leadership. When I’m not cutting checks and paying website fees, I’m over at HBU teaching and chairing the music department.

Our chapter is doing quite well financially, and we’ve had very few large expenses due to virtual competitions. Please encourage your colleagues to join GHNATS and your students to participate in all competitions. We use the membership and student fees to serve everyone with competitions, guest adjudicators, cash prizes for students, guest clinicians, workshops, and winners’ recitals!

I wish everyone a safe, healthy, and beautiful year of singing and teaching!

David Kirkwood, D.M.A.
Chairman, Department of Music
Vocal Program Coordinator
Houston Baptist University

David Kirkwood

Membership Liaison Statement


As Membership Liaison, I would like to welcome you to the Greater Houston Chapter of 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 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

Frances Fenton