Anthony Blatter, flanked by two singers in his choir group, sings with his hand raised chest high.
Anthony Blatter, center, sings with Joey Belmore, left, and Emeline Yorty, right, members of the Canticum Novum ensemble. Photo by Jacob Moscovitch

Story by Erik Potter

Last summer, Anthony Blatter paced outside the hotel conference room, waiting for his final-round performance in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) lower-classmen collegiate competition.

When it was his turn, Blatter walked to the front of the room and announced his song — “If I Were a Rich Man” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. He lowered his head, closed his eyes and gathered his thoughts. Then he looked up and began to sing.

Two years before, Blatter didn’t imagine being in college or singing competitions. He was a St. Louis high school junior with poor grades. “But music I would get A’s in all the time,” he says.

A music teacher saw Blatter’s talent and desire. He pushed him to start piano and music theory lessons and gave him a leading spot in the choir. Blatter’s success fueled the rest of his studies, taking him to Mizzou in fall 2017, where he is majoring in music in the School of Music.

Right away he pledged the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity. Music had been a lifeline for Blatter; he wanted to toss that line to anyone who needed it. In his second semester, he became the fraternity’s diversity chair.

He focused on building an open, trusting community. Eight to 12 of the brothers talked weekly about race, class and other prejudices in society.

Anthony Blatter looks at the camera.
Blatter has reached the semifinal round in the 2019 NATS singing competition, which is judged in April. He is competing in the musical theatre and classical categories. Photo by Jacob Moscovitch

“It started opening people’s eyes to what [increasing diversity] should be all about,” Blatter says — namely that it starts from the inside out. To attract a diverse group of new members requires that current members “know our stuff and are accepting.”

Blatter is also involved in the Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative, one of many programs and organizations on campus devoted to giving all students an equal opportunity to make the most of their Mizzou experience.

By the end of his second semester, a week before the national NATS competition in Las Vegas, Blatter still didn’t think he’d be performing there. He didn’t have the money to go.

A friend suggested he start a fundraising campaign online. Blatter raised $1,200 in four days, bought the plane ticket and made the flight.

After he finished his song and heard his name announced as the winner, he remained stoic. But when he returned to his hotel room, the tears poured out.

“I did this,” he thought. “Life is so cool.”

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