08/06/12 — Continental Community Children's choir offers students chance to sing, shine

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Continental Community Children's choir offers students chance to sing, shine

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 6, 2012 1:46 PM

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News-Argus file photo

Victoria Ruffin, right, music education teacher at Dillard Middle School, directs the Continental Community Children's Choir, an audition-only group sponsored by the Goldsboro chapter of Continental Societies Inc.

Victoria Ruffin knows what it is like to live your dream -- she has been there.

The director of the Continental Community Children's Choir has tried out for "American Idol" twice -- once just recently at age 28.

She sang "Over the Rainbow."

She did not get the nod, but it will not stop her from continuing to pursue her music career.

"I am not a quitter, and my time shall come," she said.

And that is the message she wants her Dillard Middle School music students to take with them as well -- that no matter where you come from or how you start, anyone can make a dream come true, if they are willing to do the work.

"I always tell my students at the beginning of the year -- to let them know even though I lived in the projects all my life, teachers around me helped me because I was respectful and I did my work, and I pursued every opportunity around me," the music education and choral teacher said.

Ms. Ruffin currently works with four choirs. Two years ago, she started what school officials termed "the only audition-only chorus in the county," the Continental Community Children's Choir.

It was payback of sorts -- to a group that had been there for her, when she was a young high school student.

"I wanted to be part of Continental Societies Inc., a group of ladies that do a lot for children," she said. "They actually gave me a scholarship years ago when I went off to college."

Open to any student in Wayne County, the choir recently held its second year of auditions.

Unlike "Idol," however, none are turned away -- if they want to be part of the choir bad enough.

"If they can hum, they're going to be in that choir," Ms. Ruffin said. "If they're disciplined, I won't turn anybody away. The audition process is really about how much they want to be in it."

Currently, the choir is made up of nearly four dozen students, ranging in age from 9 to 18 from Dillard, Eastern Wayne and Greenwood middle schools, Spring Creek, Goldsboro and Eastern Wayne high schools, Eastern Wayne and Tommy's Road elementary schools, Wayne School of Engineering and Wayne Early/Middle College High School.

The diversity of ages and representation from around the county provides a great opportunity for the young people, the director said.

But especially notable is how well they have blended their voices, sometimes with minimal rehearsal time.

"These performances, they come kind of quick," Ms. Ruffin explained. "Because I have a lot of things going on, most people will contact myself or Ms. (Anetta) Reid. I will pull them together and have a rehearsal.

"These children are gifted. Some of the music I pick is something that they know. They're just talented. They'll sit there and listen. They want to do it."

The group has been invited to church events, National Night Out -- where they will again be singing Tuesday night at Herman Park -- as well as the Empty Stocking Fund and Dillard Alumni worship service.

Ms. Reid, vice president of the Goldsboro chapter of the Continentals, said the choir fits nicely with the organization's mission, which is to "enhance the lives of children."

At 16, Jewell Phillips has been part of the group from the beginning.

"I'm getting older now, so I'm trying to be a role model for the younger kids," said the rising senior at Wayne Early/Middle College High School. "It's exciting to be doing something positive in the community."

Daeshon Davis, 12, will be in seventh grade at Dillard Middle School this year. He joined the choir in fifth grade.

"I was in the chorus in my last school, and I love to sing," he said. "I just thought I would feel right if I was in something that I could relate to."

He praised Ms. Ruffin -- for her ability to lead as well as pack a lot into the rehearsal times.

"Really, it's just us working together, like if someone's on a wrong note, someone will go backstage and help you rehearse your notes," he said. "Ms. Ruffin says we're family. We should never not get along because we'll always help each other."

It's been a "great experience" meeting youths from other schools in the county, he said. But the part he enjoys most is how much it has helped him manage the nerves.

"Performing in front of lots of people, because I have never really gotten to do that, I think it helps because I have stage fright," he said.

Rebecca Eliassaint, 11, a sixth-grader at Dillard Middle School, agreed.

"(Ms. Ruffin) relaxes us," she said. "She's hilarious. I get butterflies, but when I get on stage, I've got it."

She was introduced to the choir shortly after moving to Goldsboro nearly two years ago.

"I have always loved singing, like my whole life, so since I was new here, I didn't know what to do," she said. "Ms. Ruffin had an audition for a choir at our school. We became like best friends. We're really, really close because we all have the same dream."

For more information about the choir or to book the group for an appearance, call Ms. Reid at 919-738-3801.