Brevard Youth Chorus goes virtual to keep kids singing
Joani Slawson knows her way around music.
She was a 2018 semifinalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award and 2016 quarterfinalist for the same honor. In 2011, she was one of only 50 music teachers in the country to earn the prestigious Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award. The music teacher at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy is president-elect of the Florida Elementary Music Educators Association and the director of the Brevard Youth Chorus.
Obviously, you can’t keep someone like Slawson from making music. So when the pandemic struck and the Youth Chorus could not safely rehearse together in person, Slawson started thinking out of the rehearsal hall.
“The pandemic has necessitated creativity in how music is taught and performed,” she said.
Slawson’s lightbulb moment envisioned a virtual chorus to continue the musical training, teamwork and community involvement from a healthy distance. It would also give the kids an opportunity for instruction in the recording process and time for self-evaluation of their performances.
“I believe these fine musicians will be even more prepared in the future,” said Slawson.
To give the students something to sing about while they await the end of the COVID era, Slawson has developed a virtual chorus that will begin with auditions Saturday, Aug. 15. Students can arrange for rehearsal time by emailing Slawson at email@example.com.
Virtual rehearsals take off from 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 20, with ensemble rehearsals from 6:30 to 6:55 p.m. Students can register for 10-minute one-on-one sessions from 6 to 6:30 p.m. and 8 to 8:30 p.m.
“My Choral Coach platform will be used for students to practice their music with immediate feedback,” said Slawson.
Individual tracks will be united into a virtual chorus via WeTransfer.
The students are taking ownership of the project. Sixteen-year-old Christopher DeMuro is pumped about being the audio and video editing guru for the project.
“The idea for a virtual concert stemmed from my desire to record a real BYC concert in a local church, with several microphones set up all around to capture the acoustics of the room,” he said.
“After the season was canceled due to the virus, I figured doing a virtual concert would be the only way to record. I took it as a fun challenge to put my skills at editing audio and video to the test.”
Thirteen-year-old Chorus member Lotus McGahee is all in with the idea.
“We have as many tries as we feel comfortable doing before sending the final recording,” she said.
“I felt good about the final product, because we can all still work together to perfect our craft.”
The students already created a test song that can be found at drive.google.com/file/d/1snY5yj-eZ24Xin6cZvh-ShA4wVskI9ig/view.
The goal of the virtual program is to create a virtual holiday concert that will be presented at retirement communities and assisted living facilities. One Senior Place has also agreed to distribute the link to the concert to their sizeable email list of seniors and senior communities. The performance should provide a healthy dose of holiday cheer for anyone who listens, in particular, seniors, who may have been struggling with isolation issues for months.
Of course, should COVID-19 lessen its grip on our lives, the students will return to in-person rehearsals at Advent Lutheran Church in Suntree, rehearsal home base for the Chorus.
“We are all looking forward to returning to face-to-face music making, but until that time, singing will continue in the Brevard Youth Chorus,” said Slawson.
Brevard Youth Chorus
Director: Joani Slawson
About the chorus: The nonprofit Brevard Youth Chorus is composed of an auditioned group of singers in grades 4-10. Begun in 2004, the mission of the choral organization is to teach and develop musically talented children who aspire to the highest levels of choral artistry.
Who can join? Membership is open to students involved in public, private, charter and home-schools.
Virtual auditions: Saturday, Aug. 15. Contact Slawson to schedule an audition time.
Contact: 321-432-2770 or BrevardYouthChorus@gmail.com
On the web: brevardyouthchorus.org
On social media: facebook.com/brevardchildrenschorus
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