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Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Open Letter To NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing)

Dear NATS,

The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of…the annual NATS singing competition.  Singers, teachers, and accompanists will roam hallways at music schools.  Teachers will cross fingers for their students.  Singers will mob the bottled water and wait an hour for a practice room to open up; groups of singers will commandeer a practice room as the territory of their particular college.  Accompanists will dash through hallways to get from room to room and swill caffeine.

NATS, my friends, I think you love singing.  I also think you are idiots. 

From your website:  “The National Association of Teachers of Singing endorses a strict policy regarding copyright laws. The use of photocopied music is prohibited at all NATS sponsored events, from the national to the chapter level” (

You do not seem to understand that accompanists do not like this.  Photocopies are my life.  I can hole-punch them, write on them, and re-arrange them to my heart’s content.  Books do not stay open.  DUH.  They close, their pages fall shut, and then I start yowling in displeasure.

You think I exaggerate?  I don’t.  This really happened to me.  It was at a NATS competition at Augustana College that my book fell shut in the middle of Voi che sapete – fyi, the books of [insert name of voice type] arias don’t stay open.  Ever.  At all.

Luckily, it’s an aria I can play from memory.  But had it not been, what would I have done?  I did not see any of the judges rush to help me.  I must conclude, then, that NATS judges do not hear the piano.  So, NATS, I suggest that perhaps you have all contestants sing unaccompanied.  There’s nothing more fun than imagining the instrumental interludes in a Strauss lied.  

I am all for stopping copyright infringement.  I support the right of composers to reap the benefits of their work.  So what’s wrong with letting an accompanist use photocopies as long as the singer can show you their properly-bought copies of the books when they walk in to sing?  It’s been done before and works fine for everyone involved.

So, then, tricksy NATSes, I propose a deal.  You can require me to play from original books if you provide a page-turner.  

Failing that, I will come to every NATS competition in the country.

I will replace all the bottled water in the city with whole milk. 

I will shut off every drinking fountain/bubbler/faucet/spigot/tap/icemaker in the greater metropolitan area. 

I will replace all the cough drops with lemon drops.  

I will remove every source of vitamin C within fifty miles.  

I will rig all the pianos so the lids are permanently at full stick.  

I will purchase gallon jugs of pollen and sprinkle it on every flat surface I can find.  

I will cough during the dramatic pauses of every aria I can hear.  

I will wedgie every tenor I can find.

Your move, NATS.


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