Northwestern State Chamber Choir Finishes Second in International Competition

The Northwestern State University finished second in the mixed choir category at the Leonardo Da Vinci International Choral Festival which was held virtually.

The Chamber Choir, conducted by Director of Choral Activities Dr. Nicholaus B. Cummins, finished fourth in the Grand Prix beating out choirs from China, Japan, the Philippines and the United Kingdom. Junior Kylie Dornbush was selected as the best female soloist in the entire competition. Dornbush is a vocal music education major from Huntington Beach, California, and is a student of Associate Professor of Voice Terrie Sanders.

The Leonardo Da Vinci International Choral Festival is focused on Da Vinci and the city of Florence – cradle of the Renaissance, renowned throughout the world as a UNESCO World Heritage city.

The NSU Chamber Choir was the only American choir in the competition with more than 25 other choirs from around the world. The Northwestern Chamber Choir has competed twice before in Hungary and Austria placing in the finals in both previous competitions and winning significant awards.

Cummins said the choir had planned to compete in France before the pandemic hit. During the past academic year, the choir was able to sing masked and record several concerts for virtual performances.

“Many of the graduating members of the Chamber Choir were disappointed because we had been able to tour internationally before, but these students were missing out on being a part of that opportunity,” said Cummins. “I found this virtual competition which is normally held in person and began looking into being a part this year.”

Cummins said the festival chair, Leonard Sagliocca, was very excited to have Northwestern State participate and helped Cummins navigate sending all the materials needed.

“I worked about two weeks editing videos to send for the competition and then had them vetted by others in my profession,” he said. “It was a lot of work, but I am thrilled our 2020-2021 Chamber Choir members were still able to be a part of an international competition in this year of COVID.”

According to Cummins, few American colleges and universities were traveling and competing internationally. He said the benefits for the Chamber Choir and Northwestern State have been tremendous.

“Students are learning about other countries, languages, cultures and history that are all studied in the classroom at NSU,” said Cummins. “They are also meeting other young people their age from Asia, Europe, Africa and South America. Many of our students have formed friendships with students in other nations and frequently talk via Facetime, Facebook, Twitter and text. The musical and education outcomes from the competition itself are immeasurable as competition allows us to chase perfection. I frequently use Vince Lombardi’s quote about ‘chasing perfection, knowing we can never attain it…but we will catch excellence.’”

Cummins said the choir has to be a team, working together to learn and master the music, be unified in every way a team can be in order to put our best foot forward.

“The most exciting thing is receiving emails from other people in other countries and how impressed they are by our choir from Louisiana,” said Cummins. “I have composers and other conductors asking us to premier their music because choirs we compete against are so impressed by our body of work.”

Cummins said his main reason for taking part in international competition is because it allows students to show what NSU can do and why students should want to be in NSU choirs.

“We strive to be the best and always maintain the best standard throughout the world and not just in our state or region,” he said.

Plans are underway for the Chamber Choir to again travel to the Netherlands next May to compete in the Cantarode competition, which only 10 choirs are invited to each year. For more information or to donate to the fund supporting student travel please contact Cummins at or (318)-357-5755.

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