WICHITA — For the second time in five years, Royster Middle School’s Vocal Plus select choir was chosen to perform at the Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA) in-service workshop.
The group’s audition tape was sent to KMEA a year ago.
“It was judged against all the other auditions,” said RMS choir director Lance Burnett, adding that he was notified in July that Vocal Plus had been chosen to perform.
Composed of seventh- and eighth-graders, Vocal Plus shared the spotlight in Wichita Thursday afternoon at the Hyatt Hotel ballroom.
“These are 23 of the most talented singers I have ever worked with, with 10 of them also selected for the KMEA Middle Level state honor choir,” Burnett said. “They truly enjoy making music and it shows.”
The 25-minute performance included six arrangements. Their rendition of the piece “Zui Zui” by Japanese composer Winton Yuichiro White held special meaning. Having previously met him, Burnett said he phoned Yuichiro White prior to the performance.
“He listened to the choir sing his song and then worked with them to make it even better,” Burnett said of the video call. “Then we gave a preview performance to all the parents and family members of the students.”
The real-time instruction with the overseas composer proved invaluable.
“Being able to hear why and how the composer created his song gave students extra insight and really helped them connect to the piece in a way that enhanced their performance,” he said. “It was also neat to see their reaction when he told them he was talking to them at 9 am on Friday when it was 6 pm for us.”
While he was impressed with the group’s ability to perform the piece, Yuichiro White offered some constructive criticism.
“He was very complimentary of our Japanese pronunciation, but corrected a couple of words. He talked about how the emphasis should be put on certain phrases and how he felt they should grow at certain times,” Burnett said. “He also said he has never had a group of singers as young as ours able to perform this piece like it was intended to be performed.”
Another song included a tuba part played by student Roger Bobo, with the accompaniment of USD 413 middle/high school band director Dr. Andrew Beu.
“We never would have gotten to this point without the support of (RMS principal) Don Epps, parents and community members,” Burnett said. “We are proud to represent the Chanute school district and southeast Kansas.”
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