Rockford group to submit entry, perform at ArtPrize


Some of the members of the Rockford ArtPrize choir rehearse under the direction of Renee Vande Wege. The group will be performing a song composed by Kayle Clements, which is the actual ArtPrize entry. Vande Wege is trying to have a 90-member choir perform the song at the ArtPrize performance on September 22.

A Rockford woman is working to turn her dream into reality with an ArtPrize performance that will feature 90 area singers as well as a song entry the public can vote on at the event.

ArtPrize, which runs this year from September 19 to October 7, was founded in 2009 and has been restructured over the last four years but still features the world’s largest art prize along with being the largest art competition to decide its awards by public vote.

There will be 16 prizes totaling $550,000 that will be distributed in 2012. Of this amount, $350,000 will be decided by a direct vote of attending visitors and $200,000 by a panel of jurors.

The top public vote awards will be for $200,000 for first, $75,000 for second, $50,000 for third and $5,000 for fourth through 10th places. For more information on ArtPrize, visit

“It is my dream to organize a 90-voice choir from the Rockford community to perform at ArtPrize 2012,” said Renee Vande Wege, Rockford Community Choir director.

Members of local church choirs, professional singers, high school choir members or individuals who have a singing talent but are not currently involved in any group all are welcome to join the Rockford Community Choir for the performance.

“We’re excited. We’re probably a little nervous. We’re feeling all the things you feel before you perform,” she said.

The choir that is being put together features a gamut of voices from a fifth-grader through a 75-year-old

area resident.

Vande Wege took over conducting the Rockford Community Choir from Kayle Clements, a local composer. The ArtPrize entry the public can vote on will be a piece that the Rockford Area Arts Commission commissioned Clements to write. The vote code is 53416.

Two Roads is a four-part a capella piece that will be performed at St. Cecilia Music Center at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22. A four-person recording will showcase the entry so the public can vote when the group is

not performing.

Two Roads uses the text of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Vande Wege said.

“The idea for this song evolved out of my life journey this past year and my desire to draw together the multitude of singers in our community who are not currently expressing themselves through music with a unified voice,” Vande Wege said.

The ArtPrize entry is the song that Vande Wege asked Clements to write. While the live performance will feature the choir, getting 90 people in a studio to do a recording was not feasible.

“You have to capture that moment somehow,” Vande Wege said.

Joyce Andrus of Cedar Springs will sing soprano, DeAnne Sherd of Rockford will sing alto, Bob Andrews of Rockfordwill be the tenor, and Aaron Vande Wege of Rockford will sing bass.

“The entry itself is the song,” she said. “I have always loved the poem, ‘The Road Not Taken.’ I thought a song based on this would be great. This defined a lot of my journeys this past year.”

Vande Wege’s journeys included transitioning from teaching music through Rockford Public Schools to being laid off to launching a local business in 2011, Vande Wege Vocals, through which she teaches a variety of local music classes and conducts the Rockford Community Children’s Choir (RC3) as well.

Vande Wege has been teaching private voice lessons in the Rockford area since 2001. Her website is Information about ArtPrize, joining the choir and her business all are on the website.

Vande Wege is a member of Opera Grand Rapids chorus and is married to local singer/songwriter, Aaron Vande Wege, who also is a member of the chorus. Aaron Vande Wege is known as Picklehead of Dilly Songs.

Renee Vande Wege has her bachelor’s of music in vocal performance from Hope College and her master’s of music in music education from Michigan State University.

Jeff Lewis, Rockford Area Arts Commission president, helped with the idea of developing the choir as he and Vande Wege were talking about ways to recruit members.

“Participating in ArtPrize is a unique opportunity,” she said. This seemed like a good fit to getting people involved.

Aaron Vande Wege has a history of performing, although his major at Hope College was education. Vande Wege was serving as a nanny after leaving the t

eaching profession.

“He couldn’t stand most of the children’s songs,” said Renee Vande Wege of the music he heard repeatedly.

Vande Wege published his first CD in 2004, which was titled “Picklehead and Other Dilly Songs.” Dilly is meant to be a combination of the words silly and delightful.

He continued to write and perform children’s songs coming out with a second CD in 2006 and a third in 2011. His website is

Clements is a composer who used to accompany Rockford High School and has been a musician for more than 10 years. “His passion has become composition,” Renee Vande Wege said.

This has now become his primary focus. His website is

Andrus has spent a good share of her life focusing on piano in her free time. “She has a fabulous voice. This entry will showcase that.”

Sherd is “a seasoned performer” as a chorus member for years in Opera Grand Rapids and having classical training.

Andrews joined the Rockford Community Choir with his niece and continued even after she left. “Bob stayed with it because he found out he had a great voice and really enjoyed it,” Renee Vande Wege said.

Vande Wege said there will also be a performance in Rockford on Saturday, Nov. 17 at First Congregational Church in Rockford. Performance times are at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Besides “Two Roads,” the choir will be performing four other pieces during the Rockford performance. Those pieces include Clements’ piece “Reeds of Innocence,” “Laudate Dominum” by Mozart, “Va Pensiero” from “Nabucco” by Verdi, and “Feller from Fortune” by Harry Somers.

The $25 entry fee to perform with the group for both the ArtPrize performance and the Rockford performance includes notation, rehearsal CD or MP3s, a music folder, a scarf and accompanist. The scarves are from the War Chest and will be supporting their organization.

“We’re encouraging people to attend the event in Rockford too. We’re working together in the community to promote the arts in Rockford,” she said.

The Rockford Community Choir is working with area restaurants on the possibility of packages for those who attend the free concert performance.


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