A passion for singing: Local students among those who perform with Sing Around Nebraska

Kandi Stelling directs the 157 member group of the Sing Around Nebraska Festival choir Saturday afternoon at the North Platte High School Performing Arts Center. The choir was comprised of fourth through sixth graders from eight schools in North Platte and 10 others from area communities. North Platte is one of eight regional sites through the state for the festival, which is held every two years.

Amelia Bruck’s reason for being involved with choir is summed up in a simple statement.

“I like that my voice gets to be heard by other people,” the Washington Elementary student said.

Bruck, a soprano, was among the 157 students, fourth through sixth grade, that gathered at North Platte High School on Saturday for the Sing Around Nebraska Festival, which happens in the state every other year.

The group represented schools from aeight schools in North Platte as well as those from 10 other area communities.

Students spent the morning rehearsing with clinician and director Kandi Stelling before an afternoon public performance at the North Platte High School Performing Arts Center.

The event, sponsored by the Nebraska Choral Directors Association, was not a competition but rather a showcase for some of the top choir students in each of the elementary schools.

“The overall goal is to give the kids an opportunity to sing with other kids who really love music and are talented,” said Janette Kammerer, a teacher at Eisenhower and Washington elementary schools in North Platte and also the elementary repertoire and standards chair for the NCDA. “It also gives them an opportunity to sing more difficult repertoire.

“We do try and pick the kids that are the top-notch ones (for the festival) and giving them a push,” Kammerer said. “As a music teacher when you do that, it encourages (the student) to get even better at their craft in a sense and want to continue to go on and do more (with music).”

Each school selected from two to a dozen students who showcased the ability to match pitch constantly, hold their individual parts and be able to sing within at least the treble range.

Students were selected in November and had time to learn and practice the six songs that were selected for the program.

North Platte is one of eight regional sites across the state that will hold a Sing Around Nebraska Festival either in January or February.

Kammerer said the festival can be looked to as a steppingstone for the NCDA’s Honor Sing Around for fifth and sixth graders, in which participants are selected from audition tapes they submit. Kammerer added that students from the festival also advance to join the NCDA’s Singing Youth for seventh through ninth graders.

The event has benefits for both the students and the choir directors from participating schools.

“It’s great for the kids who love to sing,” said Jodie Liess, a vocal director who had a dozen students from the Chase County School District. “They get to focus on that for the day and they really see how much they can improve or what can happen when you get with 149 other kids who love the same thing.

“It’s also a chance for me to touch base with other directors that you don’t really see other times (during the school year) because we are busy.”

The song list for Saturday’s event included “Starlight, Starbright” by Pete Seeger and Cristi Cary Miller’s “The Duel,” a tale about a gingham dog and a calico cat. It also included three with some stretches of foreign language in the lyrics: “In This Ancient House (Momoshiki Ya)” by Ruth Morris Gray, “A Joyful Song” by Mary Lynn Lightfoot and “Sisi Ni Moja (We Are One)” by Jacob Narverud.

“Some of (the songs) are challenging with a range,” Kammerer said. “They are singing (songs) that are two-part and we have a song that has a descant so that is like a third part that is higher.”

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