Maria Thompson Corley, a Jamaican-born Canadian and professional Julliard-trained pianist, is among the first class of mentees as part of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Mentoring Program for composers.

Maria, who was raised in Alberta and has been residing Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the past several years, will be working  with composer Evan Mack as her mentor.

The press release from NATS states the following:

The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) is pleased to announce the composers chosen to participate in the inaugural season of the NATS Mentoring Program for Composers. This new and unique program pairs a group of celebrated art song composers with emerging and early career art song composers in order to promote and encourage the creation and performance of new works. For this first year, the program has been reserved for composers from underrepresented groups, with a special emphasis on Black composers. 

Maria Thompson Corley

Maria Tompson Corley will be paired with composer Evan Mack as part of the 2020-2021 NATS Art Song Mentoring Program.

The program is supervised by vocal composers Tom Cipullo and Lori Laitman. “During a series of discussions recently, Tom brought forth this idea which was enthusiastically embraced by several of our committees as a way NATS can meet multiple goals to increase representation and the voices of diverse populations within the art song community,” says Allen Henderson, executive director of NATS. “Tom and Lori put out the call among their colleagues and recruited a distinguished group of mentors to join them: H. Leslie Adams, Michael Ching, Andrea Clearfield, Anthony Davis, Juliana Hall, Jake Heggie, Roy Jennings, and Evan Mack. The group we announce today are the first in what we hope will be a long line of mentees who will benefit from the guidance of this stellar group of mentors as NATS advances its vision: Transforming lives through the power of singing.”

Each mentee and their mentor will be working together from October 2020 to June 2021 with one-to-one online contact approximately once a month. Depending on the schedule of the mentors, the needs of the mentees, and the interests of both parties, the mentors might critique short works, give general counsel about writing for voice, offer advice about resources, point the mentees toward appropriate performers and presenters, give information about recording and publishing opportunities, and just generally be a sounding board for any questions the mentees might have.  In addition, all mentees will have access to general mentor H. Leslie Adams.  There is no cost for this program to the mentees and there were no age or stylistic limitations during the application process.

“We received applications from so many wonderful and diverse composers, showing that the future of art song composition is very bright indeed. I can’t wait to see what new works will be created this year!” says Lori Laitman. Tom Cipullo adds that “The composers selected for this program represent a range of styles, aesthetics, interests, and experience.  But they are all arresting individual voices with something to say.  This will be a very interesting year!”

As a special feature of the program this year, the Cincinnati Song Initiative will commission a song from each of the composer mentees in the inaugural year. These songs will be produced in a video recording and premiered as CSI’s season finale concert titled ‘Let it Be New’ on May 16, 2021. “Now, more than ever, we must amplify diverse voices that have always been among us but stifled by deeply rooted systems and biases. CSI is honored to provide this group of commissions, creating tangible opportunities that will contribute to a growing body of American song repertoire reflective of this country’s true strength – its diversity,” says Samuel Martin of CSI.

NATS plans to continue this program in the coming years and complete info on this year’s program is available HERE.  NATS is also accepting entries for its annual Art Song Composition Award with a deadline of December 1, 2020 which awards over $3000 in prizes to the selected composers.  Complete information can be found here.

The original news release from NATS can be found here.