April 13, 2004

Children's choir will return in the fall

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois Children's Choir, disbanded last year because of a drop in quality and some problems on the business side, will be back this fall.

"We will scale it back so it's more manageable -- focusing on half the number of choirs at many times the quality," said Robert L. Weiss, director of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's School of Music.

"We're also making sure we have directors who are not only superb musically but are enthusiastic about doing the job, and we expect to have more parental involvement in the organization."

An informational meeting for parents interested in enrolling their children in the revamped choir will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, in Room 105 of Building A in SIUC's Northwest Annex on Lincoln Drive.

Version 2.0 of the children's choir likely will consist of the singers, children in grades five to eight, and the choristers, the premier performance group for children in grades six to 10.

"We may grow as we get going, but we will start with this slightly reduced size," Weiss said.

While a faculty member ran the old choir, a team of private professionals will take charge of the new one. Lauren W. Arnett, who graduated with a master's from the music school in 2002 and who teaches part time for her alma mater, and Amanda Sims-Groves, a Thompsonville resident who teaches at Herrin High School, will share leadership responsibilities.

"Both these women are superb vocalists themselves, and they both have experience working with kids," Weiss said.

"It's important to have people who understand children's voices, because you don't do the same things with them that you do with adult voices."

Finances for the revamped choir will see the biggest change. Weiss will present budget figures and plans at the May 4 meeting and will be looking for volunteer parents to help with administrative and organizational aspects of the choir.

"The new choir is going to have to be entirely self-sufficient, which means we will have to increase tuition from what it was before, though we'll be trying not to do that all at once," he said.

"We'll also be looking at a greater role for fundraising, and perhaps later we might be able to obtain some grants. I have had many parents contact me to say they would be interested in helping with the business side of the choir, so I am hoping to make that a parental volunteer group effort so it doesn't rest all on the shoulders of one individual."

Weiss also will talk about the upcoming summer choral camp. A week of half-day sessions set for the first week in August, it will offer training in music skills, voice and hand bells and will prepare children for the auditions they must pass in order to participate in the regular choirs this fall.

For more information, call Weiss at 618/536-8742.

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