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It is not over ’til the Community Choir Club Sings

Towards the end of the semester, this campus usually hears a concert from a dedicated choir group. They walk amongst us, and yet we know relatively little about them. This group is the WSU Vancouver Community Choir Club, as of this fall.

The primary difference between this semester and years past lies not in the function — or even in the members — of the choir, but in their reasons for becoming a club.

Janelle Dacus, the club’s primary student initiator this semester, attested to the challenges of forming the Community Choir Club, saying funding was an issue. She briefly described the process.

“Last spring we lost our student leader. She graduated. At that point, we knew we would need to become a club,” said Dacus.

WSU Vancouver also lacks a music program, which is another reason why achieving club status was such a necessity.

According to Debra Barnett, one of the choir’s founders and club president and treasurer, there are many guesses as to why the campus does not offer a music program.

“One legitimate reason may be that, in order to offer a music program, we would need a center for performing arts. And this is something that the State simply will not fund. It would take a donor or developer willing to put up the capital for such a facility” said Barnett.

Prior to being a club on campus, the group of community members, faculty and WSU Vancouver students had been an official university choir.

Barnett, having considerable history with the choir, shared a glimpse of its past.

“The choir was formed in 2002 as an opportunity for faculty and staff who like to sing. About twenty of us met at Noon to sing for an hour twice a week. We performed a free concert at the end of the term,” said Barnett.

For those with a passion for music, this was an ideal outlet after long hours at school at work. Not only was the choir in existence at that time, it expanded only a year later.

“In Spring 2003, a 1-credit course (MUS 432 University Singers) was offered to attract students to the choir. We also opened the choir to community volunteers to expand the size of our group,” said Barnett.

These members included many volunteers from the community, as well as faculty, staff and students. At one point, Barnett recalls having 45 singers.

However, by April 2013, the course was no longer offered, which caused music lovers to seek an alternative means of continuing choir activities. Thus, the idea of WSU Vancouver Community Choir Club was born.

“Our funding over the years has come mainly from S&A Fees Awards,” said Barnett.

“We have also received small contributions from various individuals over the years. When we were told we could not offer a course to students, we were also told that we no longer qualified for S&A Fee award funding and that the only way we could continue to meet as a choir would be via a student club,” said Barnett.

Nikki Hinshaw, who advises the registered student organizations, said that it is her job to oversee club funding and formation. Hinshaw gave some insight as to why the club was a necessity.

“We want people to be able to find like-minded individuals. Prior to [this year], they were not a registered student organization,” said Hinshaw.

Hinshaw did comment on the longevity of the choir and their activities, saying, “Traditionally, they have done one concert per semester.”

When asked about the implications for future choir activities, Janelle Dacus, a club member, was positive, but still vague at this point. Other than practices, few plans have been made due to the process of attaining club status.

“We have got some challenges ahead, but I feel pretty close to getting the club off the ground,” said Dacus.

This semester, the main challenge will be getting students to be more involved. In the past, community members, many of whom were retired, used to make up the majority of the choir.

“Our focus now is the students. Being a club, we need more student involvement. That is where I stepped in,” said Dacus.

As it turns out, Dacus’s role in bringing this club to the attention of students has been vital.

“Janelle [Dacus] began her efforts to reactivate the choir club early in the semester. She attended the orientation and was able to get five students to sign into CougSync,” said Barnett.

“We are basically still on hold,” Barnett said, when describing the process of funding the choir through club status.

Most of the funding is still needed to pay accompanists and the conductor, as explained by Barnett. Without these, the choir cannot function.

“Choir is more than just a group of people singing together. A lot of learning takes place,” said Barnett.

Both Barnett and Dacus cited the choir’s conductor, Lee Jennings, as being a main source of that learning.

“Lee chooses our music selection,” said Dacus. Prior concerts have included everything from Beatles songs to Robert Frost poems set to music.

Barnett provided additional some history. “Lee is a retired music educator—a very knowledgeable professional,” said Barnett.

Not only does he select the music and assist singers in mastering the material, he “also [understands] the dynamics as well,” said Barnett.

Barnett, Hinshaw and Dacus encouraged students to connect to club events via the WSU Vancouver Community Choir Club page on Cougsync.

“Although we haven’t updated the content since spring, you will find quite a bit of info about the choir on our <a href=”vancouver.wsu.edu/community/wsu-vancouver-community-choir”>website</a>,” said Barnett.

Any students with a passion for musical expression are urged to explore this new opportunity.

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