Eastern Oregon University > Alumni > Vocalist advances to nationals

Vocalist advances to nationals

Shahayla Ononaiye is heading to the Windy City July 7-12 to compete with 14 singers in her category for cash and other prizes. If she advances, she will sing in the final round July 10 at the Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile.

Shahayla Ononaiye is heading to the Windy City July 7-12 to compete with 14 singers in her category for cash and other prizes. If she advances, she will sing in the final round July 10 at the Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile.

Recent grad advances to national vocal competition

News contact: Laura Hancock, University Advancement, 541-962-3585
Source contact: Jamie Jacobson, Vocal Instructor, 541-962-3464 

LA GRANDE, Ore. June 27, 2016 Eastern Oregon University graduate Shahayla Ononaiye has been invited to Chicago for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Music Theater Competition.

Ononaiye is heading to the Windy City July 7-12 after securing her place as a national semi-finalist in three previous division level contests.

“The music department is buzzing with excitement for Shahayla,” said Jamie Jacobson, Ononaiye’s vocal instructor. “This is a huge honor and she’s worked very hard to get this far.”

Ononaiye won the chapter level for her division in the competition held in Portland in November, advanced to the regional level and then the preliminary national round. All of her entries, with the exception of the chapter contest she performed in person, were recorded and submitted on YouTube, so the experience will be quite different for the live auditions.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to compete on a national level, but I’m also very nervous to know what that really means!” Ononaiye said.

Ononaiye will compete with 14 singers in her category for cash and other prizes. The semifinal round is July 9 at Roosevelt University. If she advances, she will sing in the final round July 10 at the Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile.

First-place prize is $5,000, a concert at the next NATS National Conference, a $1,000 gift certificate from music print publisher Hal Leonard Corporation and a career management services package from Stage Door Connections.

Ononaiye will sing her heart out, performing four songs for the judges: “Always Better” from “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Gimme Gimme” from “Thoroughly Modern Mille,” “I Speak Six Languages” from “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “The Lady is a Tramp” from “Babes in Arms.”

This is not Ononaiye’s first showing with NATS. Last year she took first place in the young adult female division of the association’s Spring Classical Festival in Portland. Jacobson is also going on the trip and they are both looking forward to attending conference sessions for professional development between competition rounds.

Originally from Kuna, Idaho, Ononaiye graduated from EOU this spring with a bachelor’s of music and bachelor’s of science in business administration with a concentration in marketing.

When she first began studying with Jacobson, Ononaiye was singing primarily soul and rock. Her mastery of musical theater was accomplished with what Jacobson refers to as vocal “cross-training” to establish healthy technique.

“Shahayla implemented the technical side of classical singing faster than most students I have taught in my 16-year history,” Jacobson said.

Audiences may remember her emotional performance as Eponine in “Les Miserables” and her leading role as Emma Carew in “Jekyll & Hyde,” both produced by the university in 2014. She also appeared as the Lady of the Lake in Monty Python’s “Spamalot” in May.

Several other EOU students, including sophomore Avalon Bloodgood of La Grande, competed in NATS chapter auditions. Bloodgood won her division at the regional level and was invited to submit an entry to the preliminary national round. She did not advance but will try again next year.

Visit www.nats.org for details on the competition and learn more about EOU’s music program at www.eou.edu/music.