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Singers successful at regional vocal competition

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College student vocalists made their annual trip to the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) West Central Region conference and student auditions.

The event was held this year at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Oct. 24-26.

Two Bethel students competed, both advancing in their divisions.

Cameron Ponce, junior from Elkhart, Indiana, broke into finals in Upper Division Men’s Music Theater. He ultimately took second place, competing with singers from Colorado State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Abby Christensen, sophomore from Gardner, in her first year at NATS, broke into semifinals in Lower Division Women’s Music Theater.

Ponce is in his first year at Bethel as a transfer from Hesston College. He is a member of the Bethel College Concert Choir, and recently sang the role of Sancho Panza in Bethel’s Fall Festival production of Man of La Mancha.

As a sophomore at Hesston, Ponce placed fifth in Sophomore Men’s Classical Division at the NATS West Central conference, and advanced to semifinals in Lower Division Men’s Music Theater. He was selected to sing at a musical theater master class before the full convention.

As a freshman at Bethel, Christensen sang with the Bethel College Women’s Chorus. She is currently a member of the Concert Choir, and directs the children’s choir at Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton.

She also had a role in Man of La Mancha, as Antonia, and played the Grand Duchess Olga Katrina in last year’s Fall Festival comedy, You Can’t Take It With You.

Soyoun Chun, assistant professor of music, is instructor of voice at Bethel. (With Chun currently on maternity leave, William Eash, director of choral activities, has been working with voice students.) Accompanist for this year’s competition was Karen Unruh, Goessel.

About 450 students competed throughout the weekend, representing colleges and universities of all sizes – Division I to two-year – from the West Central Region, which comprises Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming.

NATS has been holding these student competitions for decades at the regional level. In 2014, NATS inaugurated a national competition, open to regional contest winners.

Joshua Powell, a 2011 Bethel music graduate, participated in the first-ever NATS National Student Auditions at the Boston Conservatory and the Boston Marriott Copley Place in July 2014.

Powell, who as a senior at Bethel took first in the Senior Men’s Classical Division at NATS West Central in 2010, placed second in the Graduate/Advanced Men category at NATS National.

NATS was founded in 1944 and is the largest association of teachers of singing in the world. NATS has more than 6,500 members in the United States, Canada and more than 25 other countries.

The NATS mission is “to encourage the highest standards of the vocal art and of ethical principles in the teaching of singing, and to promote vocal education and research at all levels, both for the enrichment of the general public and for the professional advancement of the talented.”

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2014-15. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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