Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

2024 Webster Vocal Competition keeps Steven Webster’s voice alive

Giang Do
Junior Maggie Meyers performs at the Webster Vocal Competition in Wallenberg on Mar 9.

On Saturday, March 9, Augustana student vocalists dressed in formal attire filled rows of seats, sandwiched in between families and friends who were eager to watch them perform. For many students, this was not their first time performing, but it was their first time performing to compete for a scholarship. 

The Webster Vocal Competition scholarship is a memorial fund that is awarded every year by the Webster family as a way to honor their son Steven Boone Webster. Having worked for Universal Studios, Fox Studios and Disney, Webster is now remembered as a role model as well as an inspiration to many of the students who performed in the vocal competition. 

As competitors made their way to the stage through the open hall in between the crowd, claps could be heard rumbling all across the marble walls of Denkmann. Students knew that this was a competition, however, they still supported one another as they each made their way to the stage. 

First-Year Emily Churak said that before this competition she had also competed for the National Association of Teachers singing competition. That competition is what gave her the encouragement to also participate in the Webster Vocal Competition, as she did not have to do a lot of extra preparation. 

“I feel like the competition is more about obtaining performing experience rather than actually competing for the money, because as a singer, performing in front of people makes it easier for the next time,” Churak said. 

The competition is split between two different subdivisions which include both the classical music division  and the musical theater division. Once the competition is finished the winners and runner ups are awarded with a monetary scholarship. 

Maureen Holmes, music professor, said that every year the music department brings in a new adjudicator for the competition. This year the adjudicator Alyssa Becker came from Drake University, which is located in Des Moines, Iowa. 

“This event is truly an opportunity for students to show their talent as well as to showcase themselves as soloists,” Holmes said. 

While having the opportunity to win a scholarship, students were also presented with the opportunity to improve their skills as they worked with a staff pianist from the music department who helped them refine their solo and get prepared for the competition. 

Sophomore Grace Fuechtmann came in first place for first and second year classical vocalists. Fuechtmann said that her main focus during the preparation process was to understand the meaning of the song as well as the character who sings, through mentoring from music professor Patrick McNally. 

“Dr. Patrick McNally is really fantastic. He is often performing in professional operas, so he really knows what he’s doing,” Fuechtmann said. “Throughout the process he was able to offer me not only singing advice, but also acting advice as he encouraged me to put on a full performance.”

Once the competition was over, the winners and other contestants gathered together to take pictures as they celebrated and cheered for their talent. 

“I am honored to have participated in this competition, as well as to have honored Steve’s memory,” Fuechtmann said.

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