In one of his columns as president of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), School of Music faculty member Norman Spivey writes—admittedly at the risk of sounding old-fashioned—that he believes it’s important for people to try to get along and do their best work. That simple yet powerful sentiment could be used to sum up his experiences as president of NATS, the largest professional association of teachers of singing in the world. His two-year term will end at the 2016 national conference in Chicago in July.
Spivey, professor of music, has implemented some important changes in NATS relevant to both members and future teachers of singing. This fall, the organization rolled out standard procedures for the Student Auditions—one of the organization’s most widely recognized activities—in which students of NATS members have the opportunity to perform and receive written feedback while meeting and hearing other singers. Under Spivey’s direction, NATS implemented a set of rules and regulations for all Student Audition levels (chapter, district, regional and national) to ensure consistent repertoire requirements and category distinctions.
“It is our hope that this new format will help make the process simpler and more effective for everyone participating in student auditions. After all, the bottom line is that we all want the best for our students and their experience,” said Spivey, noting student audition procedures varied greatly among the 80+ chapters. “Because our auditions are often the first experience a student has with NATS, we hope that these streamlined guidelines will provide a positive experience for the students and their teachers.”
Spivey also oversaw negotiations with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding NATS’ Code of Ethics, after the FTC raised some questions about the statement, “Members will not, either by inducements, innuendos, or inappropriate acts, proselytize students of other teachers.” According to Spivey, the questions raised were ones of syntax and interpretation. “Fair competition among members has never been an issue; indeed there are many examples of professional competition that we nurture and embrace. Nevertheless, we were asked to remove the clause,” Spivey said, noting the NATS board of directors acted in the best interest of the association and agreed to remove the clause, with the understanding that the removal implied no culpability.
In addition, Spivey has led updates to the organization’s bylaws. “Revising bylaws is seldom a glamorous activity, but our recent updates represent how much we have been blossoming as an association,” he noted.
Changes include updates to titles and duties of executive officers and the creation of a new level of student membership different from membership in student-run chapters. Spivey is also updating the manuals for officers and board members, as well as working on adding a Health and Wellness Coordinator position to NATS’ board. This new position will make available the latest voice health advice, and pending board approval the inaugural coordinator will feature a professional who got her start as a student at Penn State.
Serving as president includes more than administrative duties. Spivey has traveled to NATS regions throughout the United States and Canada to serve as an adjudicator and/or master class presenter. NATS business has taken him to 13 of the 14 regions, with the next trip being to Seattle, Wash., for the Northwestern Regional Conference and Student Auditions, where he will be a keynote speaker, present a master class, and adjudicate for the NATS Artist Award regional finals.
The July 2016 NATS national conference, where Spivey will pass the baton to Linda Snyder, professor emerita at the University of Dayton, will include a presentation by School of Music colleagues Mary Saunders-Barton and Jennifer Trost. Saunders-Barton will also be featured in a pre-conference workshop.
For more information on NATS, visit http://www.nats.org.
This article was written by Amy Milgrub Marshall, writer/editor for the College of Arts and Architecture.