Flourish Online Magazine Spring 2010


Totally immersed in music: KSU offers intensive programs for high school musicians
By Scott Singleton and Jarmea L. Boone

High school students participating in Summer Clinic

For a young musician, studying music with members of the Kennesaw State University School of Music faculty, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Cobb Symphony Orchestra can be a life-altering experience. Four KSU-sponsored events, all presented in the Dr. Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center, offer this opportunity for high school musicians. The students are able to study and perform with talented peers as well as the finest professional musicians in the state.

The annual Male Chorus Day, established in 2005, enables male students to experience the power of singing in a large male chorus. Led by Associate Professor of Music and Music Education Leslie Blackwell, the students participate in a one-day workshop that focuses on three musical pieces and vocal technique, with a concluding performance in the evening. The event has grown to include 190 male students and offers a sound that Blackwell describes as “unique, mature and gutsy.”

Modeled after Male Chorus Day, the new Women’s Choral Day was introduced last semester by Assistant Professor of Music Education Alison Mann. In its first year, the event attracted 286 female performers representing 13 schools in the Atlanta area, along with home-schooled students.

The students explored a wide variety of music, including pieces in Latin, English and Portuguese. Mann says, “Next year, I look forward to seeing familiar faces from our first event and meeting new singers for an intense and rewarding day of singing.”

Brass Blast!, another new program this year, will occur on Feb. 13 and is exclusively for high school brass musicians. Coordinated by Associate Professor of Music David Thomas Kehler, Brass Blast! will offer the students coaching from some of the best professional brass musicians in the Southeast, most of whom perform with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra or Cobb Symphony Orchestra.

“My hope for ‘Brass Blast!’ is that it becomes a popular annual event that students will want to participate in,” says Kehler. “This opportunity puts KSU’s best foot forward. It brings students to our campus and showcases what the School of Music has to offer.”

KSU’s partnership with the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus offers high school musicians an opportunity to work together over an extended period of time. GYSO, founded by the Cobb Symphony Orchestra in 2006, established residence at KSU in 2007 and performs three major concerts a year. With more than 400 students, GYSO is the largest youth orchestra program in the Southeast and provides students with nine different ensembles, including two full orchestras, two wind ensembles, a jazz ensemble, a percussion ensemble, a chamber music program and a recently introduced choral program.

The experience of performing in a large ensemble is an essential piece of artistic growth for many students. April Johnson, now a music education major at KSU, says, “I had to completely change my mindset from playing as a soloist to playing with a section. That experience has helped me feel well prepared whenever I perform with a new orchestra.”

Associate Professor of Music Michael Alexander, who serves as the music director of GYSO, says the program enables students to stretch their musical capabilities. “It is for students who love music and want an extra experience and an opportunity to play great music at a very high level with colleagues from across the region,” he says.

Jonathan Urizar, now a music performance major at KSU, joined GYSO while he was a senior in high school. “The orchestra helped me by opening up new ways of thinking about music,” Urizar says.

For an even more intensive experience, the KSU School of Music and GYSO offer the Summer Clinic for Music and Dance. The one-week program offers high school students courses in band, chorus, dance, classical and jazz guitar, orchestra and piano. Now entering its fourth year, the Summer Clinic attracts students from throughout metro Atlanta and north Georgia.

Summer Clinic students receive comprehensive training. Depending on their instrument, they participate in large and small ensembles, receive individual coaching and practice audition techniques. All of the students present a concluding recital to showcase their work.

According to Alexander, who co-directs the Summer Clinic, the experience “gives high school students an idea of what it’s like to be a music major in college.”

The transition to college can be challenging, so the School of Music is likely to expand its offerings for young musicians. If the popularity of the existing programs is an indication of the future of collegiate music programs, Georgia can expect a harmonious future.


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