Making Their Voices Heard: Students Shine at Classical Singing Competition
Alyssa Becker ’22 has a tough time not smiling. It is her nature.
But then there is reason to be content these days. Alyssa just graduated from Keene State with a degree in guitar performance, she is enjoying her role as a part-time third-grade music teacher at the Claremont Christian Academy, and partnering with her sister Kirsten, she recently cut her first album, Love & Thought.
The Becker Sisters’ album showcases Kirsten ’20, the pianist and composer, and Alyssa, the soprano. Love & Thought is a ranging 12-track debut featuring a variety of musical styles, from contemporary art song to folk to jazz and to neo-classical.
Just before graduation, the ever-affable Alyssa competed in her first vocal competition, the National Association of Teachers of Singing – NATS for short – a collegiate classical singing contest pitting student vocalists from New Hampshire. Professional singers served as judges.
Alyssa placed second and was one of three Keene State music students to earn place recognition in their respective divisions. Kyle Trombley ’23 won his division and Amber Farrell ’25, like Alyssa, was a runner-up in her division.
Additionally, Alice Browne ’24, a Music Education major, tied for fourth place in her division.
Each of the students study or studied voice at Keene State with Dr. Daniel Carberg.
Keene State’s music program offers five music degrees and a music minor. To become a music major or minor, students need to pass an audition. The Music Department offers four audition dates throughout the spring semester. Upon successful completion of an audition into the program, students declare a primary instrument or voice.
Alyssa, the daughter of a pastor, was introduced to music, including church choir, at an early age. At Keene State, she was a Guitar Performance major with voice as her secondary instrument.
Kyle, meanwhile, is a dual major pursuing a BA in Music major with piano as his primary instrument and voice as his secondary, and a BS in Computer Science.
He won the Upper Division, Junior and Senior Age, for his collection of songs: The Vagabond, by Ralph Vaughan Williams; Extase, by Henri Duparc; Zueignung, by Richard Strauss; and Fin ch’an dal vino, by W.A. Mozart. The latter Aria, he described as especially challenging.
Kyle said he entered NATS at Carberg’s urging, enjoyed the “immense challenge” of it all, and afterward reflected on his good fortune of landing at Keene State and in its Music Studies program.
“It was not my first choice,” he said of Keene State. “I enrolled at Concordia University in Montreal, and never did like the vibe, or the faculty. The only other places I applied to were Southern New Hampshire (University) and UNH.
“That’s when Keene moved up on my list, that and I got a scholarship. After a few weeks there, I said this is the exact place that I need to be.”
Alyssa, a student of Dr. Evangelia Leontis and Dr. Matthew Leese, placed second in the Upper Division, Junior and Senior Age. She performed Dejte klee Jestrabu, by Antonin Dvořák; Inflammatus et accentus, by Gioachino Rossini; Claire de lune, by Claude Debussy; and Sure on this Shining Night, by Samuel Barber.
Amber placed second in the Lower Division, Freshman and Sophomore Age, and the pieces she performed were I love all graceful things, by Eric H. Thiman, Après un rêve, by Gabriel Fauré, and V’adoro pupille, by G.F. Handel.
The event was virtual and included college-aged students from all of New Hampshire. The competition is the most prestigious and competitive event of its kind in the state, Carberg said.
Classical style is singing in the style of opera and other classically based genres.
For Alyssa, Keene State marked her first out-of-home schooling experience. She was home-schooled from kindergarten through high school at her Charlestown, NH, home, she said.
“I knew I wanted to commute to a college, and it turns out Keene is only 40 minutes from my home,” she explained. “College was more affordable if didn’t live on campus or in Keene. That was a huge draw for me. Another draw was being there with my sister for some of the same time.”
Alyssa earned a full scholarship to study classical guitar.
“She is a unique student in that she possesses an extraordinary ability in combination with intense discipline and drive to improve,” Leese, her voice teacher at Keene State for three years, said. “Often high-achieving students have one of these two qualities in abundance, but it is rare to find both in the same person.”
Kyle comes from a family with roots in music and theater and admits to an unusual range of interests. He works in information technology for the college, is subbing as an English teacher at Keene High School for a stint this summer and is the musical director at a nearby congregational church, for starters. “I’m kind of unique in that I have a lot of side hustles,” he said, laughing.
“When I compiled my (song) list, it needed to meet the required standards, but I did not want the songs to be particularly easy,” Trombley said. “I wanted the judges to appreciate that I took on some challenge and put myself out there.”
He called the judges’ appreciation for his performances humbling, whether that included a recognition for degree of difficulty or not.
“To win, it is an honor. It is exactly that,” Kyle added. “There is so much talent. Amber, wow, she is so good, and Alyssa, all I can say is that she is absolutely extraordinary. I know that we all feel fortunate to be in a program with so many incredible teachers and musicians teaching and supporting us.”
Alyssa called the college’s Music Department, “one big family.”
“There is the caliber of the musicianship, but the well-being of the student is not overlooked,” she said. “That wonderful balance of pushing us to be better musicians and caring about us as a person at the same time was special.”
– Alyssa Becker
Like Kyle, Alyssa felt it important to choose challenging songs for her NATs performance.
“There were the expectations that we had to meet, but I wanted to pick the most difficult pieces to best showcase my talent. I had to pick an Oratori, for example, and I was already working on one, and my foreign-language song was Czech, Dejte klee Jestrabu.”
Kyle said the Keene State music department staff not only makes a “great education accessible,” but it boasts exceptional and talented musicians and educators.
“These are people who are world renowned,” he said. “Incredible people and musicians and humanitarians. Whatever you want for an adjective, they are all those things.”
Kyle said he plans to perform and study music at the graduate-school level. Alyssa said she would love to sing as part of an Oratorio, in concerts, and in more collaboration with her sister.
“Getting more experience with orchestras and other large ensembles; that would be great.”
For now, the Becker Sisters work can be listened to on iTunes, Amazon Music and on her sister Kirsten’s website kirstenbeckermusic.com.
To view the three Keene State students’ NATS performances, click on the links below: