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USD Music Students Achieve Top Prizes in Virtual Competitions

Drone photo of Old Main with a sunset in the background. USD music students were among the top prizewinners at two virtual competitions hosted by the South Dakota Music Teachers Association.

VERMILLION, S.D. – University of South Dakota Department of Music students were among the top prizewinners at two virtual competitions hosted by the South Dakota Music Teachers Association (SDMTNA).

USD students competed against others from South Dakota State University, Augustana University, Northern State University and Black Hills State University.

First place winners in the state Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) competitions will advance to the West Central regional level competition to be held virtually in January.

The following USD students won prizes in their respective divisions.


Young Artist in Piano

1st Place - Nicole Gerdes
Junior Piano Performance major
Renner, South Dakota
Student of Susan Keith Gray, D.M.A.

Young Artist in Piano

2nd Place - Evaggelia Nikolaidou
Graduate Piano Performance major
Volos, Greece
Student of Alessandra Feris, D.M.

Young Artist in Piano

Honorable Mention - Luke Most
Graduate Piano Performance major
Des Moines, Iowa
Student of Alessandra Feris, D.M.


Collegiate Voice I (Freshman/Sophomore Men and Women)

1st Place - Brian Shirley
Freshman Musical Arts and Business major
Rapid City, South Dakota
Student of Tracelyn Gesteland, D.M.A.

2nd Place - Denisse Balandran
Sophomore Vocal Performance major
Storm Lake, Iowa
Student of Tracelyn Gesteland, D.M.A.

Collegiate Woodwinds

2nd Place - Anna Klocke, clarinet
Sophomore Music Education major
Tea, South Dakota
Student of Luis Viquez, D.M.A.

Collegiate Piano

2nd Place - Deanne Eckstrand
Freshman Piano Performance and Music Education major
Pocahontas, Iowa
Student of Susan Keith Gray, D.M.A.

3rd Place - Leon Urias
Junior Piano Performance major
Pita, Poland
Student of Alessandra Feris, D.M.

The MTNA national student competitions are among the most prestigious student competitions in the country. The purpose of the MTNA competitions is to provide educational experiences for students and teachers and to recognize exceptionally talented young artists and their teachers in their pursuit of musical excellence. The three-tiered competitions begin with state competitions. The winners of each state's competitions advance to a regional division competition. Division winners compete in the national finals at the annual MTNA National Conference.

SDMTA is an affiliate of Music Teachers National Association. SDMTA competitions provide opportunities for musical growth for member teachers and their students through recognition of high-performance standards. The SDMTA competition is separate from the MTNA competition, but they are held concurrently at the state conference.


USD's College of Fine Arts encourages students to pursue their chosen professional field in art, music or theater through their study with nationally recognized faculty who are working professionals. Students learn and grow to be professional fine artists with great job potential anywhere in the country. The college offers opportunities for additional real-world experiences through work with guest artists, study tours abroad and opportunities at the National Music Museum and the University Art Galleries on the Vermillion campus and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The college brings more than 80 guests artists to campus annually to work with students.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News