Students in choral workshop hone their skills
Published 11:09 am Wednesday, July 30, 2014
COURTLAND—Danyelle Nettles already knows she wants to sing professionally. But before ascending to a stage, she’s keeping her feet firmly planted in the classroom. Most recently, Nettles participated in the annual choral workshop at Southampton High School, where she’s a rising junior.
Nettles was one of approximately 12 students who sang under the direction of guest conductor, Aaron Rice, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities at Chowan University.
“This is my third year [in the workshop]. I started singing in my freshman year,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to sing.”
Before that, the 16-year-old had to persuade a family member to allow her. Once that was achieved, Nettles tried out.
“People told me I have a nice voice. I didn’t really believe them at the time,” she added. And though capable of singing both alto and soprano, Nettles prefers the latter, which has a higher range.
The three-days of training proved useful for her. For example, Rice explained how singing is like a clothes line, an illustration that she came to appreciate.
“It was a really good experience,” Nettles said. “I learned how vowels make the music mostly, and that I used to make my consonants bigger than they’re supposed to.”
During the teaching of four or five songs for middle and high school, Nettles said, “He really showed us the bits and pieces to make it sound beautiful and in unison. To make it sound precise and beautiful.”
What she’s learned in the workshop will be refined outside of the chorus room at the high school. Her training in the school year has taken on an advanced level. Nettles has been accepted after auditioning for the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk.
“I’ll go for half of the school day in Norfolk and better my voice to take it as a career,” she said. “I want to perform and then to teach later in life. I want to become wise with it and help others.”
Already, Nettles said, she’s been encouraged to look at scholarships at Chowan University.
Rice, who’s starting his second year at the university in August, confirmed some of what she learned.
“I teach vocal production and how to teach these students to sing with good resonance,” he said. “To sing with their thoughts on what the music is saying and the way they communicate it. It was great to know some of students in Virginia — where they come, what they do and what they sing.”
The guest conductor, who also leads such workshops elsewhere, came at the invitation of Stephen West. He’s the choral director for both the middle and high schools, and this was his sixth workshop.
“I had about 12 students, normally I have at least 15 to 20 or more,” said West, adding that in order to get Rice to teach, the sessions had to be rescheduled earlier than usual, which created an overlap with summer school and therefore fewer participants.
“He [Rice] worked to get a nice clear tone, worked on vowels and blending — to match on pitch. Worked on posture, technique and breathing. He had some exercises to help with the aforementioned. He taught about expression and getting into the song.
“He did a really good job and got some improvements,” said West. “There’s always something to grow.”