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WVU student advances in national singing competition

Juwan JohnsonA West Virginia University School of Music student has advanced to the semi-final rounds of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Annual Competition.

In March, Juwan Johnson won the Hall Johnson category at the eastern regional round of the competition. His top placement secured him one of 14 spots in the semi-finals, held during NATS Annual Conference in Las Vegas June 22 – 26. 

Johnson first came to WVU as a music education major focusing in viola, but knew he wanted to focus on voice performance at the end of his first semester. Johnson approached Assistant Professor Rob Chafin with his interest.

“I only had experience in a chorus, not solo performance,” said Johnson, a Martinsburg native. “Professor Chafin graciously agreed to prepare me for my ultimately successful audition into the voice program.”

Chafin was immediately impressed with Johnson’s hunger and passion for performance.

“Juwan is a great student and works diligently to improve and hone his craft.” Chafin said. “He’s dedicated to researching and trying new repertoire and his eagerness is what makes him such an incredible musician.”

One of the largest and most prestigious student singing competitions in the country, Johnson may just be the least experienced contender at NATS.

“There is no set age range or limit to years of study, so I will be up against people both older and younger than me with more experience performing,” Johnson said. “Even though that is very intimidating, I will not let that fear stop me from being my best.”

To prepare for the semi-finals, Johnson is taking lessons with Chafin and Hope Koehler, associate professor of voice.

“Professor Koehler is well-versed in spiritual performance pieces and will help me dig deeper into the meaning and style of the spiritual category,” Johnson said. “Professor Chafin knows my voice better than anyone, so he will help me diagnose any technical issues so I can give the best performances I can.”

Johnson will perform Ride on King Jesus, Give me Jesus and Witness, all by Hall Johnson. The semi-final round will be held of June 22. Three singers will then be selected for the final round on June 24.

“I’m hoping to use my adrenaline to fuel my vocal technique and allowing the character of what I'm singing to blend into one solid performance,” Johnson said. “I hope to go out there and represent WVU very well.”