BOONE, N.C. — A chorus of young voices rose amid the noise of the pandemic, with regional students — and some as far away as Georgia — taking part in Appalachian State University’s virtual spring 2021 Appalachian Youth Chorale (AYC), a program offered by the Community Music School in App State’s Hayes School of Music (HSOM).
Dr. Nicole Sonbert, director of the Community Music School and HSOM instructor of voice, received a $1,500 Grassroots Grant from the Watauga Arts Council in support of the spring AYC program. The council is a Designated County Partner of the North Carolina Arts Council.
“We are thankful for this Grassroots Grant from the Watauga Arts Council for helping us to keep making music, connect with one another and create new musical experiences as a community,” Sonbert said.
For several years, AYC has provided young musicians of Boone and the surrounding communities with a choral music experience that gives each musician an opportunity to find and share their voice, according to Sonbert. The program is open to youth ages 7–16 — with no experience or audition needed.
The 10-week program consisted of 45-minute sessions in which students explored music from a variety of cultures, practicing healthy vocal technique, music reading and notation, and performance skills.
Specifically, the students learned about poet Langston Hughes through his poem “The Dream Keeper,” set to music by Black American composer Rollo Dilworth. Students expressed their thoughts about the poem and music through their own words and other forms of art-making, Sonbert said, exploring the themes of dreams, idealism, optimism, overcoming adversity and the importance of community.
Additionally, students participated in two sessions of personalized instruction with HSOM faculty during the semester.
Dr. Meg Stohlmann, AYC conductor and HSOM assistant professor, said the online format of the spring semester program provided a way to connect with singers geographically separated from App State.
“Not only did we have young singers from the High Country, but also from the Raleigh–Durham community and even two singers from Georgia,” Stohlmann said. “I am so thankful for the support of the Watauga Arts Council and their commitment to arts education for our community. It made this challenging time that much more enjoyable for our young budding musicians.”
Amber Bateman, executive director of the Watauga Arts Council, said, “I love that the chorale is keeping kids engaged in singing, connecting them with people outside our immediate community and teaching them resilience.”
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About the Hayes School of Music
The Hayes School of Music prepares young musicians for professional lives as performers, composers, music educators, music therapists, conductors and music industry professionals, ensuring the next generation of musical leadership for the state, region and nation. Noted for quality instruction by national and internationally recognized faculty musicians, the school offers four undergraduate degree programs and three graduate-level programs. Learn more at https://music.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.