With a song in their hearts

Young and Talented Notebook
The Star-Ledger-by Allison Freeman Wednesday, May 20, 1998

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Twelve-year-old Katie Maunder stood proudly in the front row of the sopranos as she began to sing with 119 other children in the New Jersey Elementary School Honor Choir.

Conductor Sandra Snow cued the sopranos to enter, but Katie did not even look in her direction.

Instead she came in instinctively - a skill she has learned from listening to the voices of those around her. For Katie could not see the conductor.

She is blind.

Katie, a sixth-grader, was one of 240 children from throughout the state selected as members of the New Jersey all-state elementary and junior high honor choirs. The ensembles gathered for one day to rehearse and then perform a concert...

The annual event is sponsored by the New Jersey Music Educators Association and the American Choral Directors Association to give talented students from around the state the opportunity to perform under the direction of nationally known choral conductors.

Katie and the other members of the choirs were selected in competitive auditions in January, after preparing audition tapes with the help of their music teachers or choral conductors.

The singers chosen then prepared the music for the concert with their individual teachers and attended one of three regional rehearsals held throughout the state the week before the concert. The choirs rehearsed together for the first time the morning before the concert with their guest conductors.

"It's always hard to believe the system works, but it does because of the dedication of the sponsoring teachers and the fact that these are some of the most talented students in the state," said Tom Pedas, manager of the elementary chorus and a teacher at Hillside Avenue School in Cranford.

The concert traditionally features a variety of music including classical, folk, jazz and multi-cultural songs. This year, the music was extremely difficult for the children, who had to learn several songs in different languages.

The elementary choir sang six pieces including Aaron Copland's "Zion's Walls" and Tev. Robert Lowry's ‘How Can I Keep From Singing.’... Keith Shaw, an eight grader, was an alto in both the fifth and sixth grades when he sang in the elementary school honor choir. In the seventh grade he was one of four students from New Jersey who were selected for the National Children's Honor Choir, which performed in San Diego.

During the summer Keith's voice changed, and this year he was chosen for the all-state junior high honor choir as a bass. "I like the deeper parts," he said.

Sandra Snow, assistant professor of choral music education at the University of Michigan, let the elementary chorus while Helen Stanley, Choral director at Gateway Regional High School was the conductor of the junior high school choir...

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Tom Pedas, The Celebration Singers and Children's Chorus


e-mail Tom Pedas at: tpedas@aol.com