Choral festival allows students to teach music

By Ian Currie

This morning, more than 300 high school choir students will arrive at Baylor without any music. By 5 p.m. they will perform together for the first time, singing pieces they have been taught in one day.

This combination of intensity, teamwork and talent is the core of the 10th annual Women’s Choir Festival.

The festival will conclude with a free concert at 5 p.m. in Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building.

The concert will feature choirs of varying sizes in addition to performances by four soloists.

Baylor’s 36-voice Bella Voce choir, the 66-voice women’s choir and the festival choir, a combination of young women from eight high schools, will perform.

The performing choirs and soloists will showcase choral music from various composers. The choirs are all different sizes and will each present a different combination of vocal performances.

Dr. Michele Henry, associate professor of choral education, said what makes this festival unique is the high school girls receive the music they will perform for the first time on the morning of the festival.

“The upper-level choral education students spend the festival physically teaching music,” Henry said.

The concert shows the product of a day-long intensive teaching program led by Baylor upper-level choral education students.

The teaching element of the festival is divided into two sections. The first section is led by choral education students while the second is led by an expert clinician from outside the student body.

In the first stage, the high school students are split into groups so each student can receive more focused training.

Baylor choral education students are spread throughout the groups and teach the groups the music.

Then Derek Brookins, director of choral studies at Plano High School, will help refine the taught material in a clinic.

“It is quite a feat to achieve this performance by the end of the day, given the amount of time available and the amount of people learning at the same time,” Henry said.

Grapevine senior Vanessa Todora is teaching at the festival for the second time. She said it is a special and important part of her class.

“We have to apply the message we learn from our classes,” Todora said. “I love that the class is so integrated and we have to get out there and experience it for ourselves.”

Todora described the experience of getting high school students to learn and perform music within one day as “exceptionally gratifying.”

Henry said the festival is important as it allows the women in the choirs to showcase their abilities.

“There is a body of repertoire specifically designed for female vocalists,” Henry said. “All these women have background in women’s choirs and specialize in women’s choirs.”

An audience member at the concert can expect a diverse lineup, both in terms of experience and style.

“There are a variety of female voices performing, from collegiate to soloists and high school students,” Henry said.