03/19/04 — All-County Student Chorus unites schools, students

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All-County Student Chorus unites schools, students

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 19, 2004 1:59 PM

Our voices we have united, with our music together we stand. There are no strangers in our chorus; music has joined us hand in hand.

More than 200 students from 15 county middle and high schools combined talents during the finale of the all-county choral music festival Thursday night at Dillard Middle School. The closing song, "Together, Hand in Hand" by Glenn Calcote, brought the audience to its feet, but it was not the first time during the concert.

The high school group's song "He Never Failed Me Yet" had a gospel flavor and also earned a standing ovation. Four soloists were featured on the song, Phaedra Johnson, Kasi Smith, Marcrisha Langston and Richard Pridgen.

Justin Smith, a student at Spring Creek High School, was the soloist on the song "I Love a Piano." The group's third song was "O Music," featuring Dr. Alan Armstrong of Mount Olive College as guest cellist.

Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent with the school system, said the students had come together in one day and learned how to sing together.

"Their teachers have taught them the songs at school," she said. "The visiting clinicians came in and worked with them, practicing a long time."

Dr. Daniel Bara, director of choral activities and professor of conducting and choral literature at East Carolina University, led the high school group. He said events like these can be challenging but are an important part of education.

"It's been proven that arts education, music education, in the lives of a child, changes their brain and makes them think about things in a different way," he said. "It makes a lasting change with their interactions with other human beings for the rest of their lives."

Barbara Swigart, a drama, chorus and vocal ensemble teacher at Croatan High School, was the middle school clinician. She thanked the teachers who had worked with the students.

"This is a very special opportunity that I hope you keep alive in this county," she said. "We do a lot with other activities, and sometimes the arts gets neglected."

She said students were being taught much more than to get up on stage and sing.

"They're learning to work together as a team and the exact art of the beauty of music," she said.

For their portion on the program, middle school students sang "Joshua Fit the Battle," "All the Pretty Little Horses," and "Sit Down."

Dr. Steve Taylor, superintendent of schools, said that every time he heard students in the school system sing, he was proud.

"They did a great job," he said. "They have been taught well by wonderful teachers."

Taylor said he appreciated the teachers' support and the collaboration that went into creating the festival. He also encouraged the continuation of music education in the schools.

"We believe in educating the whole child," he said. "We have to keep these kinds of programs in our curriculum."