Warren High School plays host to choir festival

Photo by Doug Loyer Dr. Jay Dougherty, Director of Choral Activities at Marietta College, directs the High School Honors Choir during its performance Saturday in the Warren High School auditorium.

VINCENT — The Ohio Music Education Association District IX Honors Festival, an all-day event, was held Saturday at Warren High School.

A total of 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 a joint 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 said 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 and work on their own and when they come to the festival, they work with a clinician, (their director for the day). This year it was 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 High School, directing the middle school. The directors worked with the students the entire day to prepare for the concert.

Photos by Doug Loyer Dr. Jay Dougherty, Director of Choral Activities at Marietta College, instructs the High School Honors Choir during practice.

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

Dougherty said the students have been working on the music with the instructors from their schools to be prepared and they were pretty excited about this and were eager to jump in and make something happen. An event like this can make an impact on many students, he said.

“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 ran smoothly. According to Logan Yoho, Alumni and Choral Booster Officer, they had a concession stand, a spaghetti lunch and coordinated ordering pizza for dinner for the event.

“We took 16 middle school students and Marietta High School took 14,” said J.D. Benson, Marietta MS Choir Director. “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.”

Photo by Doug Loyer Ann Lillie-Briggs directs the Middle High School Honors Choir on the Warren High School auditorium stage.

“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 HS and MS Choral Director. “I have some students that are advanced and this is a chance for them to share their talents and they get the chance to work with a college professor. That’s very exciting.”

Ryan Hutcherson, Maysville HS and MS Choral Director, also said it was a great event for the kids as they were able to spend a whole day learning a great repertoire of music. Hutcherson also said the students were able 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,” said Maysville HS 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,” said Maysville HS 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, Philo HS and Jr. HS Choral Director, said the festival gives the kids a chance to sing with other students and perform material that is more challenging than they are used to. She said it’s a good experience for her students and they really enjoy it.

“I’m looking forward to this,” said Philo HS 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. “I’ve been coming to this since middle school.”