Hardeeville Elementary participates in statewide honor choir for first time

In 1999, Patricia H. Croft with the Elementary Division of the South Carolina Music Educators Association dreamed of creating a South Carolina Elementary Honor Choir. Her vision was to promote choral singing for elementary students, raise the quality of existing elementary choral programs and provide much-needed professional development for South Carolina’s elementary music teachers.

Croft secured a $1,000 grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission to help finance the first choir and contracted with Henry Leck, founder and artistic director of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, to come to South Carolina for this new project. Leck made suggestions for the statewide audition that are still followed today. Croft and other teacher volunteers listened to 600 children singing “America” on the first audition tapes. Leck sent a challenging list of music to be taught, and the teachers of the first choir members began preparing the students for the weekend’s rehearsals in Greenville. The first performance was held at the Hyatt Regency in Greenville to a standing-room-only audience.

hardeevillechoirstudents2This year, 465 students from 95 schools auditioned for the 2014 choir and 242 were selected. The choir performed at the SCMEA’s annual conference in North Charleston Feb. 6-8. Two of those students, Tre’Mari Cunningham and Isaac Taliaferro, (pictured right) presented Hardeeville Elementary School in Jasper County.

From Savannahnow.com:

Jasper County elementary school students Tre’Mari Cunningham and Isaac Taliaferro were selected to participate in the South Carolina Elementary Honor Choir in Charleston. The choir performed Feb. 6-8 for a crowd of about 1,000.

Cunningham, a student at Hardeeville Elementary, and Taliaferro, a student at Ridgeland Elementary, auditioned under the direction of Hardeeville music teacher Brandon Hutson.

“We had an audition through the school where I listened to the fourth- and fifth-grade kids and taught them the requirements,” Hutson said. “We narrowed it down to 16, and then we had another audition and narrowed it down to six. Tre’Mari and Isaac were among the top six.”

Hutson said every student had to sing the same song during the school auditions.

“They were all based on the same requirements and were scored on a rubric of pitch, rhythm, tempo and consistency,” Hutson said.

Taliaferro started the year out at Hardeeville Elementary when Hutson was auditioning students for the choir. The 11-year-old relocated to Ridgeland after the audition CDs were sent to the choir judges. After he was selected to be in the choir based on his audition score, his father brought him to Hardeeville each Friday.

“It’s pretty awesome to see that two of our kids made it out of so many that auditioned in the state,” Hutson said. “That’s impressive. They only missed one point.”

The school-wide auditions included all of the fourth- and fifth-graders who are required to take music as part of their curriculum.

This is the first year the school has participated in the statewide honor choir. Hutson attended the S.C. Music Educators Conference last year and saw the choir perform.

“When I saw them perform, I knew our kids had to do that because it was such as mass of students that were able to represent their school and district,” Hutson said. “We have some great talent in Hardeeville and I knew we had to get our kids to audition.”

Of the 465 students who auditioned, Taliaferro and Cunningham were among 240 who scored high enough to make the honor choir.

Cunningham said participating in the choir event in Charleston was a fun and exciting experience.

“We rehearsed for nine hours,” Cunningham said. “We went for three days, from Thursday to Saturday. Rehearsal didn’t seem that long, though, because it was fun.”

Guest clinician Cristi Cary Miller came from Putnam City, Okla., to assist and teach the students.

“I liked what she (Miller) did; it was fun,” Cunningham said. “She was teaching us things like how to move your mouth, going high and low and used different things that were fun to make us do it. When we were practicing we used games. … It was hard work, though. Sometimes the teacher would be fun with it, but then she’d stop being fun and start teaching. She would never yell but she would be serious, because she’s a teacher.”

Cunningham and Taliaferro were friends before participating in the choir, but it has brought them closer together.

“Me and Tre’Mari were already friends before the event,” Taliaferro said. “But to find out before we were going to be in the same thing was shocking and we knew the experience was going to be fun.”

According to Taliaferro’s grandparents, who attended the event, Cunningham’s uncle and Taliaferro’s first cousin sang together in school.

Cunningham wants to be a singer when he grows up and hopes to play the piano. Taliaferro hopes to sing more.

“We saw a lot of people that we knew at the event,” Taliaferro said. “It was more boys than girls. The way it affected me was that I think it helped me with being on stage performing in front of a lot of people so when you grow up you won’t be scared or anything.”

Joseph Taliaferro, Isaac’s grandfather, commented on his experience in the audience.

“The instructor was excellent and the crowd was very obedient,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience for these two young kids and for us, too.”

Tre’Mari and Isaac will not be eligible for the statewide choir again next year because they will be moving up to middle school. There is currently no statewide honor choir for middle school students, but Hutson and others hope that will change.

Via: S.C. Music Educators Association (choir history), Savannahnow.com