Jacob Keith Watson, a 2011 Ouachita Baptist University alumnus and Wynne, Ark., native, won first prize in the inaugural National Music Theater Competition held by the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). The finals of the competition were held June 30 at the 52nd annual NATS National Conference in Orlando, Fla.
Watson advanced through three rounds of competition and approximately 300 competitors to claim the first place award. As part of his first place finish, Watson was awarded $5,000 cash, a featured concert at next year’s NATS national conference, a $1,000 gift certificate from the Hal Leonard Corporation, a Stage Stars recording package valued at $240 and a Career Management Services package from Stage Door Access.
“For me personally, it was one of the highlights of my career as a singing teacher to be present for Jacob’s performance and to hear his name read as the winner,” said Dr. Jon Secrest, coordinator of vocal studies and Watson’s vocal instructor at OBU.
“He represented OBU so beautifully,” Secrest added, “with a passion for performance and an elite level of accomplishment as a singer and an actor that will no doubt carry him throughout his wonderful career.”
NATS has historically sponsored a competition for classical singers that takes place once every two years, with cash prizes and performing opportunities awarded to the winners. “This year, at the urging of many of the member teachers whose particular interests lie in the realm of music theater, NATS sponsored the first-ever performance competition for students in this area,” Secrest said.
“Music theater performance is ever increasing in popularity, both in the professional world and in university vocal programs across the nation,” he noted. “The OBU School of Fine Arts, the Division of Music and the Department of Theatre Arts celebrate the profound importance and historical significance of our alumnus, Jacob Keith Watson, as winner of the first place award in this inaugural event.”
The competition began in May with preliminary auditions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and online. Twenty-two semifinalists were selected to compete in Orlando, and six competitors were chosen to compete in the finals.
In the final round of competition, Watson performed “Streets of Dublin” from A Man of No Importance, “What Is It about Her?” from The Wild Party, “How Glory Goes” from Floyd Collins, “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George and “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” from Guys and Dolls.
Watson also earned second prize in the prestigious Lotte Lenya Competition earlier this year, a competition sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for young artists who specialize in both opera and music theater. He is currently a member of the Janiec Opera Company at the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina.
For more information, contact Dr. Jon Secrest at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870) 245-5134.
By Brooke Zimny