On Monday, Missouri Western hosted 230 choir students from area high schools and middle schools in its annual High School and Middle School Honor Choir.
Performers at the Honor Choir were nominated by their directors and then spent several hours preparing material for a performance in the evening. Elise Hepworth, the director of choral studies at Missouri Western and the conductor of the Honor Choir, values energy and a desire to learn in her performers.
“My philosophy is to bring in students who are hungry and excited to learn from each school participating. Rather than selecting students based on their skill level and ability from a total pool of candidates, I want teachers to choose their students who will benefit from this type of experience the most,” Hepworth said.
The Honor Choir is a way for Missouri Western to introduce students to the university’s fine arts program. Hepworth appreciates the opportunity to showcase Western fine arts.
“The honor choir is a great way to share with the students the experiences they would have while singing in college. The choral music program at MWSU is high energy, fun and a great place to find your niche while getting a great education, no matter if you choose music as your major, or any other major on our campus. The honor choir also provides students a ‘first look’ at what it would be like to sing in an ensemble under my direction,” Hepworth said.
Chase Graves, a student at Maryville High School and performer in the Honor Choir, feels that he got that first-look experience.
“I’ve been doing these kinds of honor choirs for awhile now, but I think [the Honor Choir] has helped me figure out the kind of standard that you need to meet in order to do well in college choir,” Graves said.
Bob Willenbrink, the Dean of the School of Fine Arts at Missouri Western, emphasizes the personal approach that Missouri Western brings to all fine arts students.
“I think the Missouri Western fine arts environment is one that provides students with unique opportunities, whether it’s in theatre and cinema, the ability to combine that [theatre and cinema], or music, the ability to study both instrumental and vocal and the wide array of all of the opportunities in the art department. I think that the personal approach that we have in the fine arts here is important. I think that students get to know their instructors, and they have a very hands-on experience into what’s going on,” Willenbrink said.
Hepworth also notes that the Honor Choir is also a way to give students from smaller schools the ability to participate in a large choral setting that they might not get at their high school.
“This honor choir is designed to give students from surrounding rural communities the same opportunities as their peers in larger cities. There are some incredible singers in our small towns in northwest Missouri, and I am excited to nurture their passion for making music,” Hepworth said.
The high school and middle school choirs each performed 3 selection and performed a combined piece as well.