Glen Ridge teen’s singing voice commands onstage

Photo Courtesy of Maria Marchione-Novoa
Julian Novoa performs at the recent National Association of Teachers of Singing competition in New Brunswick.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Julian Novoa, a Glen Ridge High School junior, has won the musical theater singing competition held by the National Association of Teachers of Singing. The competition was open to New Jersey, New York and Connecticut high school students and was held in New Brunswick, at Rutgers University, on Oct. 29.

The two singing categories differentiated not by gender but by vocal range. One category was the trebles, consisting of soprano, mezzo-soprano and alto-soprano voices. The second category consisted of tenor, baritone and bass voices, or TBB. Furthermore, only two types of songs were being sung in the competition: classical, which was largely operatic, and songs from musical theater. Julian won in the TBB category, which saw approximately 50 competitors. 

To qualify for the competition, a student needed to provide a recommendation from a vocal coach, who had to be a NATS member. Julian was asked to compete by his teacher, William Amory. Each teacher may support only one student in the competition. Julian prepared three musical theater songs.

“Mr. Amory had previously worked on two of the pieces with me,” Julian recently told The Glen Ridge Paper. “Unfortunately, he couldn’t work with me on one piece, and, more unfortunately, I was under the weather the week before (the competition). I couldn’t sing all that well. It was nerve-wracking. But on the day of the competition, I cleared up and was able to compete.”

For his first song, he selected the title song of the 1963 musical “She Loves Me.” In this song, the male lead, Georg, realizes that Amalia, his archenemy at work, is actually the girl of his dreams. Julian said he chose this song because it is upbeat with plenty of physical movement to act out.

From the 1979 musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” Julian chose “Not While I’m Around.” This is sung by Toby, an apprentice to the titular murderous barber’s landlady and accomplice, Mrs. Lovett. Toby sings this song as a declaration of protection and love for Mrs. Lovett, who makes meat pies from pieces of Sweeney Todd’s victims. Julian said this song is slower paced than “She Loves Me” and has an intense attachment for a mother figure.

“I’ve liked this song since I was a kid,” he said.

From the 2006 musical “Spring Awakening,” Julian sang, “Don’t Do Sadness.” The musical, based on an 1891 play of the same name, tells the story of teenagers experiencing a sexual awakening in late 19th-century Germany.

“It’s sung by Moritz, which is a supporting role,” Julian said. “He’s steeling himself to commit suicide, which he does.”

This final piece is the one Julian prepared without his teacher. As with the other two songs, this song required Julian to play a character. Julian said “Don’t Do Sadness” is a pretty difficult song to sing effectively.

“I chose it because I thought I could do it,” he said. “It’s in contrast to the other two songs, and I wasn’t expecting to win the competition.”

Julian arrived early, at 9 a.m., on the day of the competition, with his mother, Maria Marchione-Novoa, and was finally able to rehearse without his voice cracking, he said. He rehearsed until his 2:45 p.m. performance.

“There were a bunch of rehearsal rooms,” he said. “Thank goodness.”

The competition was judged by NATS members. After the announcement of his win, Julian was asked to reprise “Don’t Do Sadness.” 

Julian recently worked on the stage crew for the Gas Lamp Players production of “School of Rock” and assisted with rehearsals. He will also be in the Gas Lamp production of “Chicago,” scheduled for Feb. 3 through 5. Before then, he will appear in the GRHS Drama Club production of “Miracle on 34th Street” on Dec. 16 and 17.