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Centenary alumna Missy Wise wins national singing competition

SHREVEPORT, LA — Missy Wise, a 2009 Centenary graduate, won first place in the 2016 National Music Theater Competition on July 9 in Chicago. The competition was held during the 54th National Conference of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), and Wise bested seven other finalists to take home a prize package worth more than $7,500.

"I was at the NATS National Convention in Boston in 2014 and attended the National Musical Theater Competition," says Wise. "After seeing the exposure it offered to actors who need a little boost in their careers, I knew I needed to submit at the next Convention. The information on the contest was released about a year ago and I began planning."

Wise initially had to select a set list of seven pieces to be vetted by a panel. She worked with voice teacher Davin Youngs to solidify her technique for each piece, and eventually submitted three pieces from the list for the YouTube round of competition. Wise placed in the top 24 and was invited to the semifinal round in Chicago.

"The repertoire process was the longest for me, because I wanted to make sure my selections showed the full range of my capabilities as a performer and vocalist," explains Wise. "I needed to cross musical theater subgenres and eras, as well as make sure the repertoire was exciting to listen to and showed off the best parts of my voice. I sang a lot of things, researched a lot of shows, and landed on a repertoire of well-known, new, and classic."

Wise's final set list, which she sang in both the semifinal adjudication and the finals, included "History of Wrong Guys" from Kinky Boots, "Another Life" from The Bridges of Madison County, "Moments in the Woods" from Into the Woods, and "Back to Before" from Ragtime.

Wise is a native of Minden, Louisiana who describes her decision to attend Centenary as "a last-minute" one. She had made preparations to attend another institution when a friend convinced her to attend an audition at Centenary's Hurley School of Music. She was immediately impressed by the professionalism of the staff and the care they took in "making me feel like I was attending somewhere important and transformative," characteristics that remained a constant throughout her time at Centenary.

"At Centenary, I was able to receive intensely personal training that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to have at most music schools," says Wise. "I felt that my advisors had my best interest at heart while pushing me (shoving me!) to do better and better at every turn. I was expected to work and held to a high standard. That sort of energy and expectation fueled me."

While at Centenary, Wise and several friends were instrumental in forming the Centenary Musical Theater Group, a student-run organization that produced shows each semester. Many of these students have continued to work professionally in musical theater, including Wise who was one of the founders of the Shreveport theater company STAGECENTER five years ago.

In 2013, Wise moved to Chicago to pursue an acting career in musical theater. She is currently working as a voice assistant at the prominent vocal studio Davin Youngs Voice and is also a student of Davin Youngs, a partnership that she says has "changed my voice for the better." In August, Wise will begin work on the Chicago premier of the musical Amour with Black Button Eyes Productions. The show will have a six week run in September and October 2016.

In the immediate future, Wise plans to continue auditioning while she seeks management and works on obtaining her Actor's Equity card.

"Getting my Equity card would open so many new doors to success in this industry," says Wise. "Winning the NATS National Musical Theater Competition put me in front of industry professionals, which also has the potential to foster some much-needed professional relationships. The win looks great on a resume and adds more clout to my name. I've also received a Career Connections package as well as gifts from the Hal Leonard publishing company to stock my personal music library, both of which aid in my development as a professional artist."

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