Area choirs show off at honors festival

The Ohio Music Education Association District IX Honors Festival, an all-day event, was held Saturday at Warren High School. About 150 middle school and 170 high school students from 17 school systems participated. The students were directed and fine-tuned by two expert clinicians throughout the day, which culminated in an extraordinary concert held in Warren High School’s auditorium.

“Warren has been hosting this event for several years,” said Mary Nuzum, Warren High School Choir Director. “There are schools here from OMEA District IX. We get together once a year in the fall to have this honors festival.”

Nuzum explained that the event is not judged.

“It’s a festival for the kids. They can go back to their respective schools and share what they’ve learned,” she said.

The students receive their music several weeks ahead of time to work on the songs with their school directors and when they come to the festival, they work with a clinician — the director for the day.

This year the clinicians were Dr. Jay Dougherty, Director of Choral Activities at Marietta College, directing the high school students, and Ann Lillie-Briggs, a retired vocal music teacher from Tri-Valley, directing the middle school. The directors worked with the students the entire day to prepare for the concert.

“I have visited a lot of high schools in this area and I know there are a lot of talented students,” stated Dougherty, “I’m eager to hear this great group of talented kids.”

Dougherty said that the students have been working on the music with the instructors from their schools to be prepared and they are excited about the festical and eager to jump in make something happen. He explained that an event like this can make an impact on many students.

“I can tell you that my freshman year, I was in honor choir when I was growing up in California. That’s when I decided to become a choir teacher,” said Dougherty. “It was so much fun, it affected my life in so many great ways…I remember standing there in that performance thinking I wanted to do this for the rest of my life and I never looked back. That’s why I’m here today, because of things like that. Events like this can change lives.”

During the day-long event, the Warren Choral Boosters helped make sure things went smoothly. According to Logan Yoho, alumni and choral booster officer, they had a concession stand and provided lunch and dinner for the students.

DOUG LOYER Special to the Times Ann Lillie-Briggs directs the combined Middle School Honors Choir on the Warren High School auditorium stage. Hundreds of Middle and High School students participated in the OMEA District IX Honor Choir Festival Saturday.

“We took 16 middle school students (seventh and eighth grade) and Marietta high school took 14,” said J.D. Benson, director of the Marietta Middle School choir. “We prepared for this for a couple of months, so this is a culmination of those efforts. My students were excited to be a part a choir of a couple hundred students. It’s an amazing thing.”

Students auditioned to be a part of the honor choir and practiced after school.

“This is awesome for my students. It’s nice for them to get excited and to be challenged with a little bit harder music,” said Abigail Hall, Tri-Valley Choral Director. “I have some students that are advanced and this is a chance for them share their talents and they get the chance to work with a college professor. That’s very exciting.”

Ryan Hutcherson, Choral Director of Maysville Middle and High School choirs, also expressed that it was a great event for the students as they were able to spend a whole day learning a great repertoire of music.

Hutcherson also said the students get to make and strengthen their friendships within the choir and with other choirs.

“It demands a lot from them, but the rewards are a quality result,” he said.

“Being around other students that have the same passion as me is definitely something that I love,” emphasized Maysville high school student Hannah Tonneman. “It’s an amazing experience and something I feel lucky to be able to attend, not only with the friends that I have, but also the ones I will be making.”

“After attending last year, I know it’s a wonderful experience,” admitted Maysville student Kaitlyn Sellers, 16. “Getting to make something so amazing, to start out and then at the end, be a united choir… it’s wonderful.”

Amanda Cox, Choral Director at Philo, said that the festival gives the her students a chance to sing with other students and perform material that is more challenging, including a piece that was commissioned especially for this festival. She said it’s a good experience for her students and they really enjoy it.

“I’m looking forward to this,” said Philo student Ryan Schilling, 18 “It’s a great experience and an opportunity to better ourselves.”

“I’ve been coming to this since middle school,” said Philo classmate Sarah McGee, 18.

“You don’t usually get to see all of the other choirs,” mentioned McGee, “and today we get to work together all day and make something really cool. It’s a really good experience in a lot of ways.”