In the Loop
Student Stories : Feb 17, 2015

Musical Theatre students shine at National Association of Teachers of Singing regional competition

By Leland Henry

After competing against more than 100 singers from North and North Central Florida regional universities at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition held Jan. 10, 2105 in Jacksonville, Florida, the nine participating UF students came home with many of the top awards. Despite it being a competition, Matt Morgan, visiting assistant professor of musical theatre voice, said it’s not about winning.

“It’s a way of preparing them for auditioning in the real world,” said Morgan. “You go for the growth.”

Although it is only his second year at UF, Morgan said he has noticed a lot of growth in his students. One senior BFA student, Matthew Ruff, has a particularly noteworthy story. After participating for the past two years, Ruff placed in his category with almost perfect scores for the first time.

“I’m really proud of Matt,” said Morgan. “He worked very hard and he just mopped the floor with everybody and took 1st place.”

Ruff prepared five songs for the judges to choose from, including “Lonely Room” from Oklahoma and “C’est Moi” from Camelot.

“I was very satisfied with my performance and was flattered to win first place,” said Ruff. “Everyone showed that this is a program full of amazing singers.”

The preparation for NATS is an ongoing process of constant performing and building each student’s repertoire throughout the year. Tony Mata, head of the Musical Theatre program, said UF students have been participating in NATS for more than 15 years and have continuously placed well throughout the years.

“It’s so wonderful as we help each singer cultivate their own unique sound,” said Morgan. “It’s like a fingerprint – everyone has their own sound that sets them apart.”

Chaz May, a sophomore BFA student, placed second in the second year musical theatre men’s category.

“NATS is a great way to learn and compete with students from other universities and perform in a competitive setting,” said May.

All of the UF students who attended qualify for the regional NATS competition that will be held at Auburn University in March.


UF students who took home awards at the North and North Central Florida region NATS competition are:

  • Brittany Bennett: 2nd place, category 25
  • Brooke Heffernan: 3rd place, category 29
  • David Leppert: 2nd place, category 30
  • Emily Lewis: 2nd place, category 27
  • Chaz May: 2nd place, category 28
  • Yael Reich: 2nd place, category 29
  • Matthew Ruff: 1st place, category 32