Society of Singers award scholarships to student singers

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CSUN students who were awarded scholarships by the Society of Singers in the last two years will be recognized during the 14th annual Ella Awards event Oct. 10.

CSUN recipients from 2004 and 2005 will be listed in a journal that will be given out at the event. Celebrities and other high-profile players from the music industry will attend the event as the society honors the achievements of Elton John. SOS has awarded scholarships to vocal performance students all over the nation since 1996.

Michael Wise, a senior theatre major who is working to become a professional opera singer, was among the three CSUN recipients of the SOS scholarship in 2004-05.

In order to receive the scholarship, Wise had to audition in front of several members of the society. Aside from the SOS scholarship, Wise said he has won other competitions, including the Hollywood Reading Club competition.

Wise was in the advanced choral ensemble, the Northridge Singers, for two years.

Under the conduction of Paul Smith, the Northridge Singers have won several honors, including the title “Choir of the World” in this year.

Tara Davison, senior vocal performance major, is for the first time since her freshman year not in the Northridge Singers. She has received the SOS award two years in a row.

The first time she received the award, she put the money toward a six-week trip to Rome where she sang in an opera.

This year, however, she put the money toward her tuition, Davison said.

“SOS is looking for people that had a good audition, get lead roles in ensembles, and are doing CSUN a service by getting involved in outside competitions and crediting the school,” she said.

Davison also performs in various competitions.

Davison said she understands that she will not win all of them, and while it sometimes gets frustrating, she focuses on the positive feelings she gets from performing.

“It’s something spiritual,” Davison said. “When I’m on stage, it’s like being in a different world.”

Davison is now looking at graduate schools on the east coast as she continues to work toward becoming a professional opera singer.

“I’ve had good luck with it so far,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Guests who attended the event are donors to the SOS, and most of them are high-profile people, said Wendy Garfinkle, director of human sources for the SOS.

Tickets to the event cost between $600 for regular seating and $25,000 for a platinum table. As this is the primary fundraiser for the society, tickets are also tax-deductible.

The award is named after its first recipient, Ella Fitzgerald. This year, SOS will honor Elton John for his achievements in music. The event also includes a dinner party and performances by Joss Stone, LeAnn Rimes, Barry Manilow, among others.

The guests also get a souvenir journal comprised of advertisements that cost up to $12,500. SOS donated a full-page advertisement to the CSUN Music Department, where the names of the 2004-05 and 2005-06 recipients of the SOS scholarship will appear. The advertisement is worth $1,750.

“It’s not everyday that we get put in a position of such big stature,” said Mary Reale, public relations director for the Music Department.

Reale also said the event is not meant to raise money, but to raise awareness.

The SOS is a non-profit organization, founded in 1984 by Ginny Mancini. The organization has dedicated itself to the health and welfare of professional singers who are in need of financial assistance.

“We provide emergency financial assistance for medical and dental work,” Garfinkle said. “A singer’s instrument is his or her voice and to take care of it, we provide them with a lot of dental work.” SOS also helps aspiring singers in need of financial support by offering scholarships.

The group offers 20 $1,500 scholarships to vocal arts majors pursuing a master’s degree. Those awarded must show talent, financial need and that they are really working toward becoming a professional performer, Garfinkle said.

“We want to help as much as we can,” he said.

Ariana Rodriguez can be reached at ariana.rodriguez@csun.edu.