ARKADELPHIA — Seven Ouachita Baptist University students were named finalists at the 37th annual Southern Region National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) conference held at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., earlier this month.

More than 500 students from universities and colleges throughout Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana competed in the auditions, including 51 Ouachita students. Students compete in classical and musical theatre divisions at the conference and also have the opportunity to attend master classes, recitals and other educational sessions.

Among the finalists was Bethany Gere, of White Hall, a sophomore musical theatre student of Margaret Garrett. She was a semifinalist in the lower music theatre division.

“The auditioning process was fun overall, but quite intimidating,” said Lola McClendon, a senior from Springdale, Ark. “It’s challenging to be vulnerable enough to allow people to point out your flaws, but it’s a great learning experience.” McClendon placed second in the upper theatre division and was a semifinalist in the lower student adult division.

“I really enjoyed getting experience and preparation for my career in the future,” said Jillian Turner, a sophomore from Fort Worth, Texas. Turner earned second place in the lower music theatre division and was also a semifinalist in the sophomore women division.

“I’ve noticed the more I sing in pressured situations, the less nervous I am,” Turner added. “Honestly, I was shocked when I found out I made it to finals. All in all, I thank God for the talent he has given me and I just want to sing for Him.”

“It is always rewarding when you work so hard to prepare your students for competition to see them succeed in their endeavor,” said Dr. Glenda Secrest, OBU professor of music. “But I must say that I am proud of my students’ accomplishments whether they were finalists or not. They all did a fantastic job.”