Four Mississippi University for Women students won prizes at the Mississippi chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) annual conference and Student Auditions finals Feb. 24-25.

 Aaron Rishel, Shakia Butler, Dr. Susan Hurley, Jerry Brown and Moira Cairns. 

Held at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, 69 students participated in the auditions, representing high schools, colleges, universities and independent music studios around the state.

“I’m extremely happy for our W singers,” said Dr. Susan Hurley, associate professor of voice at The W. “They’ve done the hard work in preparing for public performances such as this competition and it’s an extra reward for us all to see the outward evidence of their success. This is the fourth semester in a row that several of our W vocal students have scored competition triumphs. That speaks volumes about the quality of vocal music training here at The W.”

Moira Cairns, a music therapy major, won first place in Younger Student Adults; Jerry Brown, a music education major, won first place in Older Student Adults; Shakia Butler, a music education major, placed second in Upper College Musical Theatre Trebles; and Aaron Rishel, a performance major, placed third in Senior Tenors, Baritones, and Basses.

Dr. William Reber, of the music faculty, accompanied the singers at the piano during each round of the competition. All of the W singers are in the studio of Hurley.

Students competed Friday afternoon in preliminary rounds that were adjudicated by panels of voice teachers. Each singer offered a list of three to four songs and/or arias. Singers with the highest scores in the Preliminary Round were named Finalists on Friday evening. The Final Round took place Saturday morning. Each singer offered one piece in the Finals, and an awards ceremony took place immediately following the Finals.

At the finals, Cairns performed “Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen“by Clara Schumman; Brown performed “Lord, I just can’t keep from crying sometimes” by Margaret Bonds; Butler performed “Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” by Newman; and Rishel performed “Questo amor, vergogna mia” from Puccini’s “Edgar.”

NATS is the largest professional association of singing teachers in the world. Founded in 1944, NATS members include faculty in higher education, elementary and secondary schools, and teachers at independent music studios. NATS offers workshops, intern programs, conferences and masterclasses that provide ongoing professional development to members worldwide.

Seniors in the Gordy Honors College at Mississippi University for Women were recently recognized for their research at the 2023 Mississippi Honors Conference held at Itawamba Community College Friday, Feb. 3.

Left to right: Lillian Ergle, Crystal Adams, Kayla Redmond, Mackenzie Pearce, Alyssa Cox

“We are very proud of the meaningful research these students are doing. All their projects have real-world applications, and it’s really exciting when they get to share them with a wider audience,” said Dr. Kim Whitehead, director of the Ina E. Gordy Honors College.

“The conference is also a great opportunity to network with other young researchers and get feedback from faculty across the state.”

Mackenzie Pearce won the top prize in the University Humanities/Social Science Poster Category for her project “The Women of the Magnolia State: Understanding the Status of a Contemporary Women’s Movement.” Crystal Adams placed second in this category for her project “An Exploration of How Nontraditional Students are Defined and Supported in Mississippi Four-Year Universities.”

Also presenting in the Humanities/Social Science category was Alyssa Cox for her project “Fostering Inclusive Behaviors in College Professors: A Glimpse into the Effect of Professor Behaviors on LGBTQIA+ Students.”

Two other Gordy Honors students tied for second place in the STEM Poster Category. Both students work in the lab of faculty member Dr. Benjamin Onyeagucha. Lillian Ergle placed for her project “Investigating SCUBE3 Nuclear Localization in Presence of DOX Treatment in the Cell” and Kayla Redmond for her project “Characterizing EGFR Function in SCUBE3 Over-Expressed TNBC Cells.”

The W’s presenters were among more than 30 students presenting from four community colleges and three other universities, including Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi and University of Southern Mississippi.

In 2024, the conference will be hosted by Mississippi State.