January 25, 2018
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
Despite students missing a crucial week of preparation for the Rutherford County Choral Festival because of inclement weather — Fine Arts Coordinator Lindsay Halford said the missed days were certainly “problematic” — students from all 16 participating schools and their choir directors will persevere.
“The show must go on,” Halford said.
This year’s annual Choral Festival will take place Jan. 30 at First United Methodist Church beginning at 7 p.m.
For the first time in its history, middle schoolers from throughout Rutherford County will participate in the festival.
Middle schoolers were nominated by their respective choir directors.
“Each student is accustomed to working within their school,” said Laura Coppage, who is the choral director at Christiana Middle and is coordinating the middle school portion of the countywide festival, “but stepping outside that familiar zone, and working with other students who share their love of singing, helps them see a bigger picture of how they can be involved in music making.”
Halford added, “We want them to be able to see what’s possible if they stay in choral music and they keep taking choir.”
“By sharing the concert stage with the high school,” Coppage said, “they can also see and hear the opportunities they will have when they reach high school, and how a more mature choir sounds. Hearing older singers will hopefully inspire and excite our middle school students about continuing their choral singing once they move to high school.”
There are a total of 260 singers who have been selected for Tuesday’s festival.
Seniors, juniors and sophomores were ranked based on the scores they received from their mid-state auditions, while freshmen were selected from the honors choir.
Matthew Clark, who is in his second year as the high school event coordinator, organizes a fall audition workshop for Rutherford County prior to the mid-state auditions. “Because of this initiative,” he said, “Rutherford County is the highest represented district in the mid-state.”
As a result, selection for Choral Festival is highly competitive.
“We’re trying to make this Rutherford County event at the level of the mid-state event,” Clark said.
Clark and Halford worked together to bring in a pair of out-of-state conductors for the event. They chose Dr. Trent Patterson and Dr. Stewart Hill from Webster University, who will initially select their own repertoire and then work with Clark to finalize the performance.
Patterson and Hill will rehearse with the students Monday night and all day Tuesday prior to the performance that night.
Clark referred to the annual event as a labor of love.
He began planning for this year’s performance back in May 2017 and noted the entire experience – booking the venue, selecting clinicians, negotiating rates, their availability, travel and hotel accommodations, disseminating information and seeking feedback – has ultimately made him a better all-around choir teacher.
The following schools will be participating in this year’s Rutherford County Choral Festival:
Blackman High School; Dr. Leisa Justus, principal; Matthew Burns, director
Blackman Middle School; Will Shelton, principal; Amy Zerner, director
Central Magnet School; Dr. John Ash, principal; Kevin Brenner, director
Christiana Middle School; Dr. Crystal Hastings, principal; Coppage, director
Eagleville School; Bill Tollett, principal; Garrett Doo, director
LaVergne High School; Dirk Ash, principal; Annmarie Neff, director
Oakland High School; Bill Spurlock, principal; Clark, director
Riverdale High School; Ryan Nance, principal; Brenda Williams, director
Rock Springs Middle School; Stephen Wayne, principal; Lorna Pyka, director
Rockvale Middle School; Fred Barlow, principal; Laura Kulp, director
Rocky Fork Middle School; Dr. Jimmy Sullivan, principal; Michael Petrone, director
Siegel High School; Larry Creasy, principal; Brenda Gregory and Gerald Patton, directors
Siegel Middle School; Kim Stoeker, principal; Sarah Golden, director
Smyrna High School; Rick Powell, principal; Dawn Crunk, director
Stewarts Creek High School; Dr. Clark Harrell, principal; Dr. Brian Russell, director
Stewarts Creek Middle School; Letoni Murry, principal; Seth Gregory, director