The last month has consumed me via a major project. So much so, that I hardly realized November had arrived. If it were not for the fact that the first weekend in November is usually set aside for NATS in Iowa - I wouldn't have known the month was here!!!
The major project (or at least sort of major) for me involved me being the NATS Iowa District Auditions Coordinator for the 2012 Iowa District Student Auditions. NATS stands for National Association of Teachers of Singing which is the organization that voice teachers belong to here in America. The Iowa District of NATS members holds a once a year student competition in Iowa on, or around, the first weekend in November. We take turns at the colleges and universities in Iowa hosting the event. This year's host school was Simpson College and the voice faculty put me to task to be the Coordinator. We last hosted the event in 2005, and my colleague who was the coordinator of that event - Maria DiPalma - was not around to offer guidance this time due to her passing. So I felt a bit on my own and having to reinvent the wheel.
It all came down to this weekend with everyone arriving Friday before noon and leaving yesterday at 3 p.m. after the Awards Ceremony had concluded. I tapped into my experience of being the race director for the mountain bike race at Lake Ahquabi and my esperience of directing 6 operas at Simpson the past few years with regard to organization, a timeline list of what and when things have to be done, delegating duties, choosing volunteers, ordering materials, sending out materials, collecting data and preparing for the actual day(s) of event. Fitting an extra 400 people into our music building for two days and on campus requires some logistical planning, scheduling and was probably the most difficult portion of the task.
I tend to be the type that under stress remains calm, but I do lose weight because I simply don't eat as much. There were a lot of late nights and early mornings as this task all had to be done on top of my normal load at school. Combined with the past two weeks also being academic advising with my students for the spring semester classes they would be taking, I had to squeeze in 33 half hour sessions in 10 days which added to the "no time to eat because of the workload stress". I am bushed, by satisfied with how everything went this weekend.
I introduced a bit of technology to the event this year which we have not had before. I created a Power Point slide show for the Finals where the division and contestant's identification were shown on the wall of Lekberg Hall in a discreet fashion, followed by the slides telling the adjudicators when to vote using Turning Point Software and wireless hand-held "clickers" to vote for immediate results. Both of these additions removed two "older fashion" needs: no need for an announcer to come out on stage and introduce each contestant, and no need to pass out paper ballots, collect them and tally them up. It was all done with quick clicks of my remote control for the laptop and the adjudicators hand-held clickers.
That was just one element of the event, but my main goal was to make sure everything ran smoothly on both days. Feedback has been nothing but positive with most saying I have now set the bar pretty high. In retrospect, the hard work, lack of sleep and stress were all worth it because it showed my attention to detail and put our little Simpson College in good standing as the host. Thanks to all who contributed in this endeavor! That list includes my colleagues Tim McMillin, Kim Roberts, Matt Lau, Virginia Croskery, Deb Terry, Michael Patterson, and the following students really earned "Brownie Points" - Laura Scwartz, Trevor Halder, Erin Wendover, Kelly Huisinga, Deaven Swainey, Alicia Sushena, Chase, Lucas, Brandon Louis, Nella Thomas, Taylor, Jessica Soko, Amanda Sandvig, Ella Ward, and I know I am missing a few at the moment, but the list is on my desk at the office. Thanks also go to Marilyn Johnson, Julie Hill, Chartwells, Kent Campus Center, Holy Grounds, Jim Thorius, Nate Reeves, Kelly Bradder (who trained me on the Turning Point Software), Sheila Albee, Mike Eckerty, Chris Frierichs and Campus Security and I'm sure I am missing a few more. Off campus help goes to the Iowa District NATS Officers Leanne Freeman-Miller, Beth Ray Westlund, Rosemary Gast, and LaDonna Manternach who all worked with me via email and phone for any questions or help I needed in getting everything up and running.
Bottom line is - it went well and I am satisfied with that! Next year's NATS will be the regional tri-state version in the Quad Cities on November 8th and 9th. One of my former students, Sarah Larsen, has been hired to the Regional NATS Governor to give the guest recital at that event which is really exciting! She represents our region well as being one of the lucky few who are out having a successful opera singing career. Sarah will also be performing two roles this summer at Des Moines Metro Opera giving me plenty of opportunity to hear her again live and cheer her on from the audience's perspective.
This year at NATS, I had 4 of my students in the finals and two of them won 1st place, and the other two won 3rd place.