PARKERSBURG - The Parkersburg South High School Choral Department has had one of the most successful years since its inception in the fall of 1967.
The Choral Department, comprised of more than 140 students, has received top honors throughout the state and country, Choral Director Melissa Life said. 'This year has truly been a remarkable year of music making," Life said. "I couldn't be more proud of all of my students. Despite all of the hardships these students and I have faced, they have come together and put their efforts into creating such a beautiful masterpiece. They truly are the best."
Life has taught for eight years at Parkersburg South where she has built upon the tradition of her mentors, Daniel B. Thomas and Pamela F. McClain.
The Choral Department is comprised of the Freshmen Mixed Chorus, Concert Choir, Chamber Ensemble and the Madrigal Singers.
More choruses may be added in the future, she said.
"Right now, funding has been cut in areas and we are looking at different ways to create more revenue to help purchase music to start up more groups such as a Barbershop Quartet, Beauty Shop Quartet, Men's and Women's Ensembles, and possibly an a cappella ensemble that would perform modern music, like what you see on NBC's the Sing off," Life said. "The kids want more avenues to make music, and although I'm only one person, I feel like if there is a need, I have an obligation to make sure it's taken care of."
Among the accolades for the school year, in February, seven freshmen students were selected to perform in the West Virginia American Choral Directors Association Junior High/Middle School All-State Chorus under the direction of Kenney Potter from Charlotte, N.C. Students selected were Steffan Affolter, Emily Athey, Justin Bosley, Karah Cross, Evan Ferree, Kaitlin Francis and Mattie Fugitt.
During that same conference, three upperclassmen were selected for the West Virginia ACDA All-State Chamber Chorus under the direction of Jeffery Redding, professor of music at West Virginia University. Students selected were Lydia Mathers, Andrew Robison V and Billy Shawver.
In addition, 14 students from Parkersburg South participated in the Region V Solo and Ensemble Festival held at Stout Memorial United Methodist Church where they were adjudicated on individual performances of solos and duets by Robert Wray, associate professor of music from Marshall University.
All students from Parkersburg South High School received superior or good ratings and two students, Aran Barney and Steve Shawver, were selected to make a tape for the State Solo and Ensemble Recital.
In March, the Chamber Ensemble was selected to be in the 2012 West Virginia State Honor Choir and present a 45-minute concert before the entire West Virginia Music Educator Association Conference and the West-Virginia All-State Chorus participants.
"It was nice to show that Parkersburg South High School has a quality choral program and we as Parkersburg South students are deserving of this honor," Caitlin Freeland, a junior, said.
Seven students were selected for the West Virginia Music Educators Association All-State Chorus held in Morgantown: Aran Barney, Caleb Gibbs, Kelsey Good, Lydia Mathers, Billy Shawver, Aili Walker and Dustin Willey.
Students also showcased their program to the Parkersburg Rotary Club and performed a special song upon the passing of Life's grandmother, a supporter of the program.
"They will always hold a special place in my heart because of their gift to my family," Life said.
When students returned from spring break in April, the Chamber Ensemble and Madrigal Singers competed in the National Heritage Festivals Competition April 19-22 in Myrtle Beach in three categories, Madrigal Singers, Chamber Ensemble and a Mixed Chorus Division where the Madrigal Singers and Chamber Ensemble combined to make a third chorus.
Accompanied by Mona Life, the Chamber Ensemble received a first place, gold rating. The Madrigal Singers received a first place, gold rating and received the Adjudicator's Award trophy. The Mixed Chorus received a first place, gold rating and received an Adjudicator's Award trophy. For the combined efforts of the choirs, they received the Choral Sweepstakes Award trophy for winning the entire competition.
Because of the choir's efforts, all groups at Parkersburg South were invited to perform in Carnegie Hall in New York City. The groups also were invited to perform in the Festival of Gold showcase that will be held at the St. Bartholomew's Church in New York City, the Orchestra Hall in Chicago and the Segerstorm Center for the Arts in Los Angeles.
"It was nice to be recognized for our vocal ability, not just for our outstanding academics and athleticism that we display at Parkersburg South," senior Michael Smith said.
The entire choral department presented its spring concert on May l0 and will present its music for the last time this year at graduation ceremonies. The Mixed Chorus of the Chamber Ensemble and Madrigal Singers will perform two of the selections performed in Myrtle Beach for the school's Baccalaureate Service 7 p.m. May 21. The Chamber Ensemble will perform the national anthem and the alma mater at the Senior Awards Ceremony 8 a.m. May 22. The Concert Choir will finish this year's choral season by performing "The Awakening" and the alma mater at commencement at 7 p.m. May 23 at the Erickson All-Sports Facility.