By Crystal Hayduk
Ten Beach Middle School choir students will sing in the Honors Choirs that open the 14th annual Michigan Music Conference (MMC) the evening of Jan. 24 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.
This is a record-breaking year, according to Andrea Miller, Beach Middle School’s vocal music teacher.
“Most years only a couple students even audition,” she said. “Last year, six students auditioned and all six were selected. But we had ten this year, and all ten got in. They’re fantastic.”
Students who are interested in auditioning for the Honors Choir, considered to be the best vocalists in the state, make a challenging, time-intensive commitment. They work with Miller to prepare for the audition, which takes place in early fall.
If chosen, they spend hours individually learning the music, in addition to attending three mandatory all-day rehearsals in various locations around the state. Finally, they rehearse all day in Grand Rapids prior to the concert that marks the official opening of the MMC.
Three of the eighth graders were in Honors Choir last year: Alex Davis and Maya Nye (altos), and Nicholas Spruce (baritone). Jasmine Gabriel-Menegay (soprano) will join them for her first time in Honors Choir.
Nye said she doesn’t feel as nervous this year since it’s her second time attending. Gabriel-Menegay said that going with friends makes the unknown easier.
The seventh graders, all attending for the first time, are Marina Hinz-Johnson, Aiyana Pugh, and Lily VanHevel (sopranos) and Jeanine Cieply, Lainey Kovick, and Sophie Peiter (altos).
Kovick said she decided to audition this year thanks to the encouragement she received from Maya [Nye], who is her cousin.
Hinz-Johnson agreed that family encouragement is helpful. “My dad used to teach the boys and it sounded fun,” she said.
Peiter and Pugh said they enjoy singing and look forward to the new musical opportunity and meeting new people, something their eighth-grade counterparts have told them about.
Spruce said that he has not only expanded his vocal ability through choir participation, but he has also learned a lot about languages. “We sing songs in Latin, Swahili, Hindi, and German,” he said.
There are three Middle School Honors Choirs, but Miller said Chelsea’s nine girls will participate in the SA (soprano/alto) choir; Spruce will sing in the TTB choir.
The Honors Choir is sponsored by the MSVMA (Michigan School Vocal Music Association). According to michiganmusicconference.org, about 9,000 teachers, administrators, students, speakers, and guests are expected to attend the MMC. Its purpose is “…to provide relevant professional development and vibrant musical experiences that support music education for educators and their students.”