School of Music Graduate Joel Terning Wins First Place at National Association of Teachers of Singing Auditions

Joel Terning

MACON – Joel Terning, who earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music in May, won first place in the Upper Level College/Independent Studio Men’s category at the National Student Auditions (NSA) of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS).

This year’s NSA competition included nearly 200 of the best high school and collegiate vocalists from across the country who gathered on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, June 27-28. Students in the Upper Level College/Independent Studio Men’s category are 20 to 25 years old with three to five years of undergraduate voice lessons.

“I was honored just to be a part of the national auditions; there were so many incredible singers there,” said Terning. “My voice teacher, Dr. Richard Kosowski, made sure I was thoroughly prepared for the competition and even met with me outside of his usual teaching hours. I would also like to thank my mom, Debra, who joined me on the journey to Minnesota to play piano for me during the competition. It was a truly special and memorable experience.”

In order to reach nationals, Terning competed in four levels of competition, beginning with the preliminary, semifinal and final rounds of the Southeast Regional NATS at Florida State University in March, where he competed with collegiate-level musicians from Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

He was then invited to submit a video audition to the National Student Auditions Committee and was one of 14 students selected to compete in Minnesota as an NSA semifinalist. At St. Olaf, Terning was selected among three national finalists and competed in the finals recital, where he was awarded first place.

He has won cash prizes at both the regional and national levels and was also awarded travel stipends from the Georgia Chapter of NATS and the Southeast Regional Chapter of NATS.

“It has been my pleasure to work with Joel as his voice teacher and opera conductor over the past four years. He is a highly disciplined, gifted musician and a naturally expressive singing actor, who possesses a beautiful, lyric bass-baritone voice,” said Dr. Kosowski, professor of music and chair of vocal studies at Mercer. “Preparing students for competitions like the NATS National Student Auditions requires a team of coaches and teachers working to provide its students with the skills necessary to succeed as competitors and as professional musicians. Fortunately, within the Townsend School of Music, we have an experienced, knowledgeable, professional voice and collaborative faculty who tirelessly works to prepare its students for their future professional endeavors.”

Over the summer, Terning will participate in the Atlantic Music Festival in Waterville, Maine, where he will study with voice faculty from Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the Juilliard School and others.

During the 2019-2020 season, he will sing with the Atlanta Opera Chorus in its production of Rossini’s opera La cenerentola (Cinderella) and serve on the musical staff of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta.

This fall and spring, he plans to audition for graduate schools to pursue a Master of Music degree.

About the School of Music

The Townsend School of Music offers undergraduate and graduate professional music studies in a comprehensive university environment. Named for the parents of Carolyn Townsend McAfee, whose family provided the founding endowment, the School of Music is nationally recognized for its outstanding faculty, award-winning students, performance ensembles, and state-of-the-art facilities. For more information and a complete listing of performances, visit