Ben Strong, a junior music major with a focus on
musical performance, recently took second place in the Lower
College/Independent Men category at the 55th National Association of Teachers of
Singing national convention in Las Vegas.
More than 15,000 student singers applied for the
contest; only 1,500 men were accepted to compete. From there, contestants
competed at the district level, with winners advancing to regionals. Strong won
both of those contests, and the regional winners were pared down via video
judging to 14 semifinalists, who were all invited to compete in Las Vegas.
In all, Strong spent nine days in Las Vegas, as the
competition took place over several days, with downtime being used for
Strong advanced through to the finals, where he sang
“Madamina, il catalogo è questo,” from the Italian opera “Don Giovanni,”
written by Mozart in 1787. He also performed Brahms’ “Sapphische Ode” and
“Zion’s Walls” by Aaron Copland.
“I wasn’t nervous to perform because I knew the songs
so well,” he said. “But I usually get nervous the day before a competition
because there’s still time for something to go wrong. I could fall asleep and
wake up with a hoarse throat, or I could
be off. But that morning when I woke up I felt great. I went and practiced, and
it went smoothly. I was anxious, but I was excited.”
Strong, a 2016 graduate of Indiana High School, is
mentored by Department of Music faculty member Joseph Baunoch.
Strong spent last summer studying in Italy, where he
perfected his version of “Madamina.” He said that experience gave him the confidence to know he was ready to compete
against the best college singers in the country.
“I was well prepared,” he said. “I’m a really big competition
and performance guy. I went to Italy last summer and performed the role. I
practiced it until I got it down.”
Up next, Strong is looking for opportunities to sing
in other competitions while also making connections as he prepares to attend
graduate school after he earns his bachelor’s degree. After his education is
complete, Strong hopes to begin a singing career that could take him around the
And finishing second at the NATS competition is a good
way to start that journey.
“I’m really happy with being able to say I’m second in
the nation among college males at this level,” he said. “I look forward to my
future and hopefully, someday, being the best in the world.”