RHS Women’s Chorus finds their voice, challenges others to do the same

We are the music makers, the dreamers of dreams

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
along with JED SCOTT 

At a recent rehearsal attended by Composer Jeffrey Cobb the RHS Women’s Chorus, all with arms upraised, exhibit their sphere of energy while singing Cobb’s “We are the Music Makers.” Jeffrey Cobb conducting and Director Mandy Scott in the foreground. Photo by CLIFF HILL

The honors never cease for Rockford High School (RHS); you could hear the pride in her voice when Mandy Makita Scott told us, “The RHS Women’s Chorus has been selected to perform at the 7th annual Michigan Music Conference (MMC).”

Rockford resident Mandy Scott is the director of the Women’s Chorus at RHS. Scott is in her fourth year of teaching at RHS, where she directs two sections of the Freshman Choir and the 68-voice sophomore Women’s Chorus. Scott holds a Bachelor of Music Education from WMU and a Masters Degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Miami (FL). She currently serves on the Full Board of the Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA) as the Supervisor of High School Music Selection.

RHS Women’s Chorus Director Mandy Makita Scott can’t wait to show her chorus’ “stuff.”

The Women’s Chorus is a non-auditioned intermediate choir made up almost entirely of sophomore women. The ensemble is noted for its diverse repertoire and cohesiveness as an ensemble. The choral group has consistently earned Superior and Excellent ratings at district and state choral festivals.

Held annually, the MMC draws 2,000+ attendees to their 3-day conferences – not including exhibitors, speakers, performers, parents, along with staff and volunteers. This year the conference will be held Thursday, January 19 – Saturday, January 21 at DeVos Place and Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Chosen by a juried panel of vocal music educators, representing the MSVMA, the RHS Women’s Chorus is one of six choral groups (five high schools and one middle school) to be honored to perform at this year’s Conference.

Proud of themselves and their smiles show it, the RHS Women’s Chorus, casually attired in street clothes, after a recent practice. Seated at the piano is accompanist Peggy Odren. In the foreground is Chorus Conductor Mandy Scott with Michigan Composer Jeffrey Cobb. Photo by CLIFF HILL

Honored indeed. “This is a really, really big deal to be singing at the MMC,” said RHS Director of Choral Activities David Duiven, seconded

by Mandy Scott and echoed by Michigan Composer Jeffrey Cobb. “We will be giving music educators a taste of what you can do with a non-auditioned sophomore level choral group,” added Scott

Jeffrey Cobb, is a highly degreed music educator and a much sought after composer of commissioned music. His pieces have garnered several national awards and honors. College ensembles, community groups, and public school students throughout the United States and around the world regularly perform his works for choir, orchestra, and band.

“I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to compose a piece for the women of the RHS Women’s Chorus for their performance this year at the 2012 MMC,” said Cobb, adding, “It’s the highest a group at this level can go.” Cobb told us that he and Scott had struggled at first to find a text that was “just right” for the planned concert program. “Too often women’s groups are relegated to sing songs about love, roses, or rainbows – we wanted to find something with power and strength.”

“In my search for a piece containing power and simple sentiment I was continually pulled back to the O’Shaughnessy poem, We are the Music Makers,” said Cobb, adding, “With the addition of a famous quote from Thomas Carlyle, I was able to achieve a wonderful lyrical balance between the text and the music I composed. In my setting of these two writings, I attempted to capture both the youthful innocence and the confident power they convey. To me, their underlying theme is that of self-confidence and finding strength in your convictions. The Women’s Chorus will be telling the story of finding their voice and challenging others to do the same. It was an

obvous choice to title the piece ‘We are the Music Makers’.”

“Our program for the Chorus’ MMC performance was inspired by the title of Ann Patchett’s recent novel, ‘State of Wonder’, and the concept that we experience wonder as awe or admiration in many forms,” said Scott. “Thus, this program embarks on a musical journey of five selections as we explore the wonder of the World, of the Divine, of Nature, of the Spirit, and of Music.”

The whole program builds to ‘We are the Music Makers’. It’s the last song and it’s the loudest. It’s the big moment of the whole show,” said Cobb.

Cobb’s commissioned composition ‘We are the Music Makers’ was generously underwritten by a grant from the Rockford Education Foundation (REF).

A free preview concert performance of ‘State of Wonder’ will be held Tuesday evening, January 17 at 7:00 p.m. at the RHS Auditorium. The public is invited and encouraged to attend in support of these talented young women. Ladies, let your voices soar!

The RHS Women’s Chorus MMC performance is to be held in the Grand Ball Room of Grand Rapids’ JW Marriott Hotel on Friday, January 20 at 3:30 p.m. A limited number of tickets may be available to the public for this upcoming and inspiring late afternoon of choral music. Contact Mandy Scott for details at: mscott@rockfordschools.org.

If you care to make it a late afternoon of music followed by an early dinner, may we suggest a short stroll over to The Bistro, a great little relaxing restaurant and lounge just off the lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott located on Monroe between Fulton and Campau Ave. Moderately priced, friendly and attentive service, and a fresh menu consisting of appetizers, small plates, and great dinner selections can be found at this best kept secret in downtown Grand Rapids.

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