Samantha Latino, a senior at Providence High School, began singing at Elizabeth Lane Elementary School. She sang in the school choir and in talent shows and musicals at South Charlotte Middle School. But it wasn’t until she got to high school that she began to think about turning her love of music into a career.
“I was first motivated to get really serious about music when I first heard the Providence Chamber Choir when I was a freshman,” Latino said. “I thought they were amazing, and knew I wanted to be a part of that group.”
Latino joined the chamber choir in her sophomore year and has continued singing with them through her senior year.
“In chamber, I am surrounded by people who are passionate about music the way I am,” Latino said. “I have found an environment that helps me to grow and be the best version of myself.”
Terri Setzer, the long-time choir teacher at Providence High School, announced her retirement during Latino’s sophomore year.
“I started thinking about how much of an impact she’d had on me,” Latino said. “And how much I wanted to do the same for someone.”
Latino switched her career aspirations from music therapy to music education and set her sights on earning her degree at Appalachian State University after attending the Cannon Music Camp there the last two summers. Run by the school’s music faculty, the Cannon Music Camp was a pivotal part of Latino’s musical development.
“You are immersed with other singers and instrumentalists and part of choir ensembles, master classes, private lessons,” Latino said. “It helped me understand the more competitive and professional environment of music.”
In the fall of her senior year, Latino, 18, applied to the renowned Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State and indicated a desire to major in choral music education. In November, Latino sent in an audition tape. In January, she was invited to audition in person for the school of music. The following month, she learned she had been accepted and she was invited to audition for the Hayes Young Artist Scholarship as the female vocalist candidate.
Latino performed three solos on stage at a presentation that included all of the finalists from each musical discipline, including instrumentalists.
“There was a lot of talent there,” Latino said.
Latino did not win.
The Hayes Young Artist scholarship was awarded to a classical guitarist. But she was instead awarded the Hayes Endowment for Musical Excellence scholarship valued at $12,000 over four years.
It is not the first time Latino’s musical talents have been recognized. She serves as the section leader for the altos in the Providence High School chamber choir and occasionally conducts the choir as well. Latina also is a member of Acabellas, Providence High School’s student-run female accapella group.
“I love directing the choir and leading the sections,” Latino said. “I like to make sure everyone in choir feels included.”
Latino has been a member of the North Carolina Honors Chorus the past two years and has made it through the regionals competition for the National Association of Teachers of Singing . She also has been a member of the North Carolina State honors Chorus and is ranked as the first alto in the state.
Kristen Johnson, who took over the Providence High School choral direction from Setzer, describes Latino as “a very talented and hard working student.”
“Her voice is very beautiful and mature for her age,” Johnson said.
Latino credits Setzer and Johnson with instilling a love of music and musical education in her.
“Music is a universal language,” Latino said. “Its power to reach out and touch every one in a different way is inspiring.”
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.