Music Department Draws in High School Choirs

Hundreds of students attend SMC’s annual festival

38th Annual Treble Choir Festival

The Saint Mary’s College Music Department hosts its 38th Annual Treble Choir Festival, which welcomes 20 high school treble choirs from across the Midwest. This annual gathering is a unique opportunity to provide local treble choirs with exposure to other high school choirs of its kind, and the Saint Mary’s College women’s choir, Belles Voix. Each ensemble performs on the O’Laughlin Auditorium stage and receives evaluations from commentators. “The commentators will work with the students and give them pointers on how to improve their singing,” said Nancy Menk, chair of the Department of Music. “The high school choirs will receive written comments and an open clinic.” This year’s commentators are Dr. Lori Hetzel, Associate Director of Choral Activities and Professor of Music Education at the University of Kentucky; Dr. Gabriela Hristova, Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor of Music at the University of Michigan-Flint; and Dr. Marin Jacobson, Director of Choral and Vocal Activities and Director of The Bach Institute at Valparaiso University.

High school choirs perform for each other during the morning and afternoon sessions across two days. Choirs receive critiques from professionals in the field but also get a taste of the Saint Mary’s College campus while interacting with Saint Mary’s College music students. Music major Georgia Siglar ’24 always looks forward to “the opportunity to show younger singers what a collegiate-level choir looks and sounds like. The students get a whole day on campus, away from their normal high school day, to experience choral music and college life. It is so exciting to be a part of.” Siglar especially enjoys serving as a role model and helping students calm their nerves before performing. 

Menk expressed the importance of bringing high school girls to campus to experience Saint Mary’s and hear the Saint Mary’s choir sing. “It is important to the College as it brings hundreds of high school-aged girls—who could be prospective students—to our campus over two days. They get a tour of the campus, have lunch in the dining hall, and hear our own Belles Voix, a choir that is a model for them in terms of sound, maturity, and quality of repertoire.” The Treble Choir Festival is an opportunity for high school choirs to perform for and listen to other treble choirs as opposed to mixed choirs. 

The festival has grown and changed in the past 38 years. What started as a one-day event has become two days to accommodate more choirs. “We were turning away too many groups, so we doubled the number of choirs that could attend by adding a second day,” Menk said. “To celebrate the anniversaries of the festival, we have commissioned a new work from a well-known female composer, who also served as one of the commentators. All participating choirs learned the new work in advance, and we rehearsed and performed it all together under the direction of the composer.” The festival is an educational experience for high school choir members and directors and a recruitment tool for Saint Mary’s. The music department at Saint Mary’s engages with students in the community each year for a memorable experience on campus.

November 16, 2023

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