Members of Weber State University’s Performing Arts Department traveled down to St. George over the weekend to attend, perform and present at the National Association for Music Education’s Utah conference.
The NAfME conference is a chance for WSU music students to attend innovative and informative workshops with other music educators and university students from around the state. Held at the Dixie Center, the conference included workshops from both choral and instrumental presenters.
“We saw great numbers and presentations from tons of local teachers,” said Dustin Shuler, a member of the WSU choirs and prospective music teacher. “We saw the boys’ choir from Maple Mountain High School, directed by Cory Mendenhall. He puts them together at lunch time and works on tone and how to keep it going through the changing male voice. It was absolutely incredible . . . He had the tone sounding like BYU Men’s Chorus.”
Mark Henderson, director of the WSU choirs, presented a special workshop for choir directors called Choir Formations: What Works and Why? Designed to demonstrate the benefits and drawbacks of different on-stage formations for performances and rehearsals, the session included a demonstration by Henderson and a group of WSU Chamber Choir members.
“One of the main points of the presentation was simply that the act of spreading the choir out will improve the sound,” Shuler said. “We spread all across the risers and sang, then bunched together in the middle, and the difference was huge.”
Henderson then pulled several music teachers from the audience and had them perform together in different formations. Using “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” a popular arrangement from Mac Wilberg, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Henderson helped demonstrate why rehearsal and performance formation affect sound.
Coulter Neal, a music education major at WSU and choir member, helped in the demonstration.
“It went really well,” Neal said. “He had about 16 different teachers go up there and did the same process with them to show the difference between the sound they’d made. A lot of choirs will just get up there and bunch together, and the sound isn’t as good.”
The Weber State Wind Ensemble was one of the featured performing groups at the convention. Under the direction of Thomas Root, the group has performed in New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, as well as traveling performance tours to Taiwan and Germany.
Composed primarily of woodwind instruments like clarinets, flutes and saxophones, the WSU Wind Ensemble gives students from all majors a chance to audition for a quality group.
“The Wind Ensemble did great,” Neal said. “They represented our school well.”
Donald Keipp, who directs the WSU Jazz Ensemble, performed with the WSU Wind Ensemble on the marimba.
“The audience really loved Dr. Keipp,” Neal said. “That was really neat to watch.”