Wakefield School Senior Ella Reidway Wins MTNA Competition
Wakefield School senior Ella Rose Reidway has won multiple awards for her singing and performances in musical theatre, but has most recently won her most prestigious: the 2021 Music Teachers National Association Virginia Senior Voice Competition. Ella has been studying voice for 11 years, and is a student of renowned voice coach Nancy MacArthur Smith and Wakefield School faculty Ray Karns and David Grimes. A delightful, articulate young woman, Ella sat down with Warrenton Lifestyle to talk about her accomplishments and future plans.
You just won the 2021 Music Teachers National Association Senior Voice Competition. Tell me about that competition.
Well, it was strange this year, because it was all virtual because of COVID. I had to submit recordings of myself online. There were a lot of rules to make the competition fair, since they didn’t want anyone using technology to enhance their performance. I had to record myself singing four different classical songs.
What songs did you sing? Were you able to select them yourself?
Yes, I could choose what I wanted to sing. For the competition, it had to be classical or musical theater. I sang Amor Preparami, which is an Italian opera song about a romantic break up, but it was funny because it’s pretty upbeat and fast and it moves around a lot note-wise. I also sang a French song, Nuit d’Etoiles, Weep You No More, and Love Among the Daffodils. I’ve been working on some of these since the summer.
Were you surprised by your win?
I was surprised! When I was making these recordings, I was also making the same recordings for my college applications, so I was focused on that too. I thought I might place, but I was not expecting to win. So I guess my hard work paid off.
Where would you like to go to college?
I applied early decision to William and Mary, but my backup is Christopher Newport. I’ve already been accepted to their Masters of Music Education program, which is a 5-year master’s degree. I really want to go to William and Mary, but I’m so glad I have this backup that is also really exciting.
How long have you been singing?
All my life. My parents are singers also — they met in an a capella group — so I think they would have been pretty unhappy if I hadn’t come out singing. I started taking voice lessons when I was nine, and then taking lessons more seriously and competing as a freshman at Wakefield.
How much time do you spend on your music?
I practice 30 minutes to an hour every day. Some of the things I’m singing put a lot of stress on my vocal cords and my voice gets tired quickly. I have a repertoire of classical songs, and I’m constantly practicing those and new ones to expand my voice. I also have an hour lesson every week, and if I’m preparing for a competition, I’ll also be recording videos.
Do you have any other hobbies?
I used to do equestrian, but I ran out of time. Most of the time I’m teaching, singing, writing music, or doing schoolwork. Music is most of my life and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Do you play any musical instruments?
Roughly, I play guitar, piano, and ukulele. I play to accompany myself while I’m writing music. That’s how I learned to play the piano.
What kind of music do you like to write?
The music I write is more folky, with a little pop and country. I mix them up. I like acoustic and harmonies, but I steer away from electronic.
So, when you’re not performing classical music or writing your own, what kind of music do you like to listen to?
I listen to almost everything. I like “Dad Rock”, like Journey and Foreigner. My favorite band is Crosby Stills and Nash. I’m doing my senior thesis focusing on how music in the ’60s coupled and integrated with the protests. So all year I got to listen to all these ’60s songs.
You also perform in musical theater. What was your favorite role?
I was the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods last year at Wakefield. I think it’s my favorite role partly because I got to do it with my best theater friend, who was the Baker, and we got to go through it all together and it was really exciting. It just made the experience so much better. Then I played the role of Tuptim in The King and I. That really pushed my acting skills. I usually play more of the ingénue role, but I had to dig a little deeper for that one.
And you’ve performed with the Shakespeare Opera Theatre in The Plains?
I have, and that was a really cool experience. I was the only high school student. I performed in Amahl and the Night Visitors, and I was the only high school student. Performing with more professional opera singers really pushed me to expand my classical voice. I saw these other women with beautiful voices, and I thought, ‘I think maybe I can get there if I really practice and try really hard.’”
What are your future plans? Do you plan to perform professionally?
I definitely plan on keeping singing and musical theater as part of my life, since it’s so important to me, but I love teaching more than anything.
My mom has a musical theater camp where we put together a musical with the kids in two weeks, and I help with that. It’s an amazing experience to work one on one with them. It’s amazing actually seeing them perform the songs I wrote and doing it ten times better than I ever imagined they would. It was so incredible. I also put together a musical for our church’s children’s choir with my dad. I love sharing my love of music with people, especially young people. The magical thing is watching them discover that they have a cool talent that they can pursue in the future. So if i can have a little part in that, that’s the best thing ever.