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Erik Burgess, Published December 25 2013

A high note: Davies junior wins national arts award

FARGO - Natalie Shaw started belting out tunes when she was 3 years old, but some good news last month managed to take the singer’s breath away.

Shaw, a 16-year-old junior at Davies High School, was selected as a 2014 National YoungArts Foundation Merit Winner in the popular vocal category.

Out of 687 winners for the 2014 awards, Shaw is the only one from North Dakota, according to a Tuesday news release from the National YoungArts Foundation. There were more than 11,000 applicants from students across 10 disciplines in the literary, performing, visual and design arts fields, according to the release said.

“I catch myself so many times throughout the day going, ‘What the heck? How was I chosen for this?’ ” Shaw said. “It brings me to tears a lot, too, just to think that they chose me.”

Shaw is the second local high-schooler in recent history to be picked for the National YoungArts Foundation program. Nina Grollman was a senior at Moorhead High School earlier this year when she won the right to attend the foundation’s 2013 program.

Jackie Shaw, Natalie’s mother, said her daughter was inspired by Grollman, now a freshman at The Juilliard School in New York. Natalie was at school last month when she found out she had won, so she sent a quick email to her mom to spread the good news.

“And I’m sitting working at US Bank, and I’m crying,” Jackie Shaw said. “It’s one of those things.”

The award comes with $500, money Natalie says will go toward college.

In February, she and her mother will also head to Miami, where winners will attend master classes and workshops with internationally renowned artists, culminating in a public performance and a chance to win more scholarship prizes.

For Natalie, winning is a bit like being picked on “The Voice” – the popular NBC singing competition show, where four pop star judges pick contestants based solely on the sound of their voice and their singing abilities.

She said the process worked the same way for the YoungArts program. Judges picked her based on her singing without first viewing the rest of her application.

“That’s kind of like ‘The Voice,’ how they choose who they want just out of their voice, not who they are,” Natalie said. “It feels like that, and it’s so cool.”

Natalie has performed in productions at her high school, Trollwood Performing Arts and the Gooseberry Park Players, her mother said. Her most recent was the starring role of “Annie” for her high school musical. She was also accepted in the University of North Dakota Honor Choir.

“She’s been blessed with a gift of singing, an amazing voice and performing,” Jackie Shaw said. “I just hope she will continue to use that throughout her whole life for her own enjoyment and for others to enjoy.”

Natalie said she’s not too worried right now about making plans for college. She wants to study vocal performance or something in the communications field, and any school that will bring her away from the harsh Midwestern winters would be preferable, she said.

“I’m really interested in doing something with my life that’s creative because I love being creative and love sharing my creative talents,” Natalie said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518