While others traveled home for spring break, five Rocky Mountain College students headed to the 2017 American Choral Directors National Conference. This congregation of choral directors, composers, and performers was a unique opportunity for the RMC music department. Only one college from each state was nominated to select students to attend the conference. With Rocky as this year’s chosen representative for Montana, Kayleigh Griffith (soprano), Gretchen Carlson (soprano), Paige Schladetsch (alto), Trevor Hunnes (tenor), and Mitchell Harmon (bass) made the thirteen hour road trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota, over March 8-11.
The students participated in conferences, workshops, rehearsals, and performances in what Trevor Hunnes described as a learning opportunity only achievable outside of the classroom. Hunnes said, “Going through school is just the tip of the iceberg; it’s the experience of it all that shapes us as musicians and performers.” And the experience was certainly eye-opening for these five attendees. The students spent four days alongside some of the most recognized choral musicians in the world. They participated in workshops and focused discussions. They also had opportunities to perform with other participating students.
The Rocky students joined other collegiate choirs in performing in a concert directed by Dr. Jeffery Ames of Belmont University entitled The Unity Concert. The concert celebrated the many musicians from all over the world who are joined together by their shared passion for music. “Music is a connection, you become emotional and vulnerable,” Griffith commented while reflecting on the concert. She noted how the message of uni-ty was personified throughout the performance. “We were strongest when working together,” Griffith said. “I hope the concert had an impact upon the audience and they will share the message of unity and strength that we all felt.”
The concert incorporated many different styles of music, which left an impact on both performers and the audience. Mitchell Harmon and Gretchen Carlson agreed that the piece “In Remembrance,” written by Ames, was a profound experience for vocalists. “It was written as a memorial to a family who lost their lives in a car accident while on vacation in Billings,” explained Mitchell. “The music follows a process and took the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions.”
Paige Schladetsch describes the unique opportunity they had learning from Ethan Sperry who was able to conduct a rehearsal on his own arrangement of “Jai Ho!” The song had a personal aspect to it as arranger and choir were able to express his vision for the piece together. “He arranged this piece with a vision of how it was to be manifested in a choir and then we got to be that choir. It was a truly cool experience,” said Schladetsch. To have such music come alive among a wealth of talent was an incredible opportunity for the students of Rocky, and they intend to take full advantage of it. “We are excited to be back and share this experience with the whole community,” said Schaldetsch.
Rocky Mountain College prides itself on its liberal arts education and balancing the skills and knowledge of humanities with sciences and technology to create well-rounded individuals. Opportunities such as this allow for Rocky students, who have been influenced by music, to experience it on a grand scale and share that passion and skill set with those around them in Billings and wherever the future takes them.