By LINDSEY KING
Seven Grandview Elementary students sung their hearts out at the Tennessee All East Honors Chorus in November, making this the second year in a row that Grandview students were the only middle school participants from Washington County.
Carson Duckworth, Justyn Forbes, Ella Lands, Rylee Malloy, Adina Phebus, Alexis Quillen and Makenzie Williams were selected to join the Honors Chorus, which took place on Nov. 17 and 18.
“Before Honors Chorus, once or twice a week we would practice with just us seven,” said Carson Duckworth, one of the seven selected to join the Honors Chorus, which took place on Nov. 17 and 18. “And Mr. Davenport would go through the songs and help us focus on them. When we went in for actual honor chorus, we were much more prepared for it by practicing with him, instead of just going there and having the music on the spot right there.”
Other participants were Justyn Forbes, Ella Lands, Rylee Malloy, Adina Phebus, Alexis Quillen and Makenzie Williams.
The Honors Chorus is organized by the East Tennessee Vocal Association, its mission to advance the cause of music education in general and choral music in particular in public and private schools in Eastern Tennessee.
Before they could attend Honors Chorus, though, the students had to audition. They noted that one of the keys to their success was their teacher Ben Davenport.
“I was nervous at first, but Mr. Davenport helped calm my nerves,” Malloy said. “He’s good at that.”
The seven Grandview students spent two days at Maryville College as part of the 250-member chorus composed of seventh- and eighth-grade students from across East Tennessee.
The students practiced essential vocal music skills, including sight reading, vocal technique and vowel pronunciation, a skill which is not always compatible with a Southern accent.
“The girl next to me and I were talking about how to pronounce our vowels and how Southern we were,” Malloy said. “We were thinking that we have to do this right and say it the right way.”
They worked in groups according to their vocal parts and then came together as one chorus in a final performance, which was all around the students’ favorite part of the experience.
“It didn’t feel like we were really there until we were up there and actually singing,” Quillen said.
“In the final performance, everyone sounded so together,” Malloy said. “And in the dress rehearsal, when we all came together, I was like, wow, we’re actually gonna do this. We’re actually gonna perform.”
The students’ love for music isn’t confined to their chorus activities. They sing outside of the classroom as well and say that music is an important part of their lives.
“You need music to live,” Williams said. “You need it to be happy.”
“There’s some type of music for everything you feel or anything you want to say,” Quillen said.
On the drive to and from Maryville College for Honors Chorus, they listened to the chorus music and some of their favorite bands, a list which includes culturally significant bands like Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Journey and AC/DC.
The event wasn’t just about music, though. The Honors Chorus experience gave them valuable skills they can apply to other areas of their lives.
“We learned how to meet new people,” Phebus said.
“And we learned not to be afraid to sing out,” Quillen said.
For Duckworth, Honors Chorus served as an early professional development experience.
“I am planning on pursuing a career in music as a band director, and so this has inspired me so much to fulfill that,” Duckworth said.
The students said that through their time practicing, performing and growing as singers together, they have formed close connections with each other.
“We can talk about anything together,” said Phebus, and the remainder of the group added one word to describe their relationship: “Family.”