From the choristers:
I loved the music we sang this semester. There were a lot of different styles. I also want to thank you for all the warm-ups that you did with us. Your warm-ups as well as the stretching that we did sometimes really helped me to relax and to put everything else behind me and give my heart to singing.
~ Elizabeth Willet(2007-2009)
I am in SVCC because of my passion for music. I love to sing and I love singing other people! Choir has helped me in so many different ways. I’ve made best friends through choir. I’ve learned to be places on time. And our course, I’ve learned to read music. I knew nothing about music when I first joined the SVCC. I couldn’t read music at all! By now I’m the first violin a Jr. Orchestra and I’m in one of the most amazing children’s choirs ever!
~ Emma Serrels (2006-2010)
Thank you for helping me to get to where I am today. Without having been in SVCC, I doubt I would have wanted to major in music in college. All of my basic skills, and musical motivation were taught to me through SVCC. I am a huge supporter of SVCC and always will be. I cannot wait to have children, and get them involved with this wonderful program. Without a doubt SVCC was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It helped shape me as an individual, and as a musician.
~ Paige Gardner (2002-2005)
During my four years in SVCC we sang in The National Presbyterian Church, Disney World, Hawaii, and New York City. Each one of these trips was fun, educational, and perfect in its own way. Choir trips always felt as if I was with family the whole time. Every trip send me home with more friends than I went with.
SVCC is probably the most rewarding thing I have ever participated in. The values that are displayed in SVCC are core to producing outstanding men and women. I have concluded the more I put into SVCC, the more I learned and received from it.
~ Logan Combee (2002-2006)
Just recently my mom brought me the new choir CD, and as I listened not only did I cry, but I also realized how beautiful our music was. The SVCC menat more to me than anyone could have ever imagined, and each Monday night for me was a blessing and a comforting spot to run to after long, busy days at school. The discipline and high-quality music I have gained form being a part of the choir is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
As it is often said, I have found that I really didn’t know how privileged I was to be a part of the organization until I ho longer had it. The friendships and lessons I have made and leanred are so special and stand out among the other friends I have made and other lessons I have learned in life. I feel honored to be able to say that I was part of the choir.
~ Heidi Logan (1996-2005)
So much about myself is a product of my years in the SVCC. My confidence, musicality, ability, love of beautify all can be traced back to innumerable Mondays. It is a mark of the inherent “goodness” of the program that I can’t even imagine my life without the SVCC. You’ve impacted me powerfully.
~ Elizabeth Anderson (1999-205)
Commitment, attention to detail, excellence, leadership, friendship—these are some of the words that come to mind when I think of SVCC. I have been a part of the SVCC program for eight years, beginning with two years in Treble Choir, and ending with six years in Concert Choir. Over that time, SVCC has been instrumental in shaping the person I am now.
The first three descriptions I mentioned above are fundamental to the program, and have certainly made a deep impression on me! The level of commitment expected of me by choir is more than I have experienced anywhere else. Punctuality and hard work have become a habit because of the emphasis on those qualities in SVCC choristers. As for attention to detail and excellence, I have seen the value of diligence in little things to make the whole work much better. After hearing the beauty of an SVCC CD recording, I am always so thankful that Ms. White drills every detail into our heads so that we can attain excellence, no matter how difficult the process may be!
The excellence of choir extends to the social aspect as well, in which the older choristers are encouraged to welcome and spend time with the younger choristers. As a first year Concert Choir member, I looked up to the “big kids” like Annie Barnes, Sarah Cupp, and Ginna Baker, as role models. Then, as I grew older and more experienced, I was encouraged to become a head chorister, taking on the role of leader and helper. I was hesitant to fill this place at first because of my shyness and insecurity, but as the years passed I became more confident and willing to lead. Now, I feel well prepared for a position of leadership, which is an amazing step for me.
Last of all, choir has brought to me many lasting relationships. Over the years I have formed close friendships with fellow choristers my own age and younger, most of which would never have come about without the medium of choir. These friendships will continue to bloom for years to come.
For eight years of my life, SVCC has been a home to me where the Lord has used choir experiences to form my character and my abilities. Thank you to all the choir staff who have labored so faithfully to keep this program running, and thank you to all the choristers who have shared choir with me. You all have blessed me profoundly, and I will always treasure my choir memories.
~ Sarah Wingard (1998-2007)
I walked into the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir as a terrified, unconfident, shy sixth grader and walked out as a college-bound, friendly, outgoing, confident, hard-working musician who won’t settle for mediocrity.
I still have a hard time convincing people at my University (and myself sometimes!) of the things I experienced with SVCC…two ACDA Concerts, International Children’s Choir Festival in Italy, and numerous concerts with the American Boychoir. I get excited a lot in my Advanced Choral Conducting class, because my professor brings up “great choral directors” such as Sir David Willcocks, or Jean Ashworth Bartle, and I can look through old programs and show someone their autographs!!!
When I tell people that I used to throw my stuff into our van right after school every Monday and drive 45 minutes to rehearsal, then do homework for 2 hours before my rehearsal and get home at 9:30pm-FOR FIVE YEARS, people think I am crazy!! The thing they don’t understand is….it was worth it!!! I started out being the only member of SVCC in my family, but my love of music spread to all three of my sisters! It created a WONDERFUL connection between me and my younger sisters as we were growing up. And the things we learned from SVCC are still blessing all of our lives today.I didn’t appreciate all the hard work of SVCC as much as I should have until I left. My background with solfege put me MILES ahead of many other incoming music majors! SVCC helped develop my love of classical and musical theatre music. The greatest lesson I learned from my seven years with SVCC is that little things make the difference between “good” and “great.”
I am now a sophomore at Southern Virginia University and the professionalism example of SVCC is helping me in my new position as the University’s Chamber Choir President.
~ Nicole Teerlink Groves (1998-2003)
My family and I moved to Virginia in the summer of 1992. From an early age, my parents had instilled in me a love and passion for music that I hold tightly to, even today. After getting settled into our new home and life, my parents found out from a friend that an audition for a newly formed children’s choir would be happening in a matter of weeks. “You should audition!” they said. While I was desperately anxious, my friend Andrea and I went together on that day to meet Julia White. Walking into Mrs. White’s home in 1992 to audition for the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir, I was filled with nothing but nervous excitement. “What if I do something wrong?,” “What if I sing off-key?!,” and “Do I look okay?” were just a few of the questions that swam around my 10-year-old brain as I eagerly awaited Mrs. White’s approval. When I received my invitation to join the choir, I could hardly contain my joy!
Fifteen years later, I look back on my time in the SVCC with nothing but gratitude and wonder. Since leaving Virginia (and the SVCC) in 1996, I went on to study music and theatre in college. I was heavily involved in singing, piano, and any other type of art that involved music. And, as my peers would tell you, I attribute many of the successes and blessings in my life to my time spent in the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir. Mrs. White implanted in me an appreciation for beauty in music and the desire to share that with others. The discipline that was imparted and encouragement to be our very best was included in every rehearsal. I even carried along singing techniques that were taught to me in my time with the choir! The visuals that I have in my head of the tennis ball and red ribbon are still with me…and I used them when I had to teach in college! But most of all, I remember being in community with fellow friends who loved music as much as I did. We all grew together, learned together, and shared with one another a common bond that most people our age wouldn’t understand. It was a love that made us tight and matured us well.
~ Chrissy Ludlum (1992-1996)
Music Theory and Aural skills are challenging, but in a good way. All the solfege we did in choir has been a big help in aural skills! College was an intimidating thought before I came, but I feel so prepared now that I am here. I think SVCC had a lot to do with that. With all of my music classes from piano to choir to voice I have to spend an hour a day or more in the practice rooms. This is no problem though, because I’m used to having a daily practice schedule and have learned how to be self-disciplined from my nine years of practicing for choir.
Hard work and always being prepared are the key ingredients to success! Pure luck can’t take you very far, not without a good work ethic. I really admire the high standards you set for yourself, us as a choir, and individually. Thank you for not accepting mediocre work, but pushing us to always give 100%.
~ Lauren Byrd (1997-2006)
I’m a senior musical theater major at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I absolutely LOVE it here and cannot wait to get into the professional theatrical world. The plan is to get a national tour after I graduate (so I don’t have to pay rent anywhere, and pay back school loans) or immediately move to New York and start auditioning professionally.
Along with the excitement of being a senior, however, my senior year has also brought some nostalgia. I started asking myself questions like “What would I do if I couldn’t perform?” or “How did this art become so ingrained in my being?” One answer I came up with was SVCC. In choir, I developed early a love of performing, “sparkling” if you will. Also, the level of professionalism instilled in me by you (Ms.White) is irreplaceable. To this day, I’ve learned that such a smart work ethic and level of preparedness is needed in every career path, especially one of “pounding the pavement,” the one on which I will be embarking in the very near future. People in the real world appreciate my sense of responsibility, level of professionalism, and zest to learn optimistically, all things I learned in SVCC.
Also, looking back at the experiences that SVCC afforded me is almost unbelievable. I had the chance to sing at the National Christmas Tree Lighting, at a music festival in Carnegie Hall, and on an Italian summer tour by the time I was 14. AMAZING! I wish I would’ve known then what I know now, but still cherish those experiences immensely. I would just like to thank SVCC and Ms. White for allowing me all those opportunities and life lessons. They are invaluable and something I will have for a lifetime.
~ Dennis Necsary, (1996-2001)
My years in SVCC gave me a love and desire for music in my life that has lasted. Along with completing my Master of Arts in Music Performance, I am now teaching voice and piano lessons and direct my own 7th and 8th grade choir. I am able to use SO many of the things I learned from SVCC. The phrase that sticks in my head the most is one that Ms. White often emphasized to us, “The way you practice is the way you will perform.” Such a simple statement, but it has stuck with me.
~ Joy Hall Martin (1995-2000)
From the parents:
Wow! What an inspiration you have been to Rebecca and to so many children! Your high expectations and standards combined with praise and encouragement truly bring out the best in your singers!
~ Sarah Straley, parent of Rebecca (2006-2007)
Thank you for the wonderful musical experiences you provide for so many children. The choir has been such a source of beauty and light and challenge in Emily’s life, and in ours, these last few years. The musical atmosphere she experiences there has carried over to her piano playing and in other choral settings. She’s much more expressive when she sings now—wherever she is. Other people have commented about it to her.
The gift of valuing excellence will stay with her all through her life—and I think she’s also becoming aware of the fact that it is such a privilege to be able to be a musician and be a part of this form of beautify which God has given us.
~ Marie Masincup, parent of Emily (2003-2008) and Prep Choir accompanist
Thank you for allowing Andrew to be part of a group of children who all love music, and for challenging him to build good habits of practice and musicianship. Thanks for the positive, enjoyable manner in which the rehearsals and fellowship activities are conducted. Thanks for the excellent organizational work that undergirds all the instruction. Thanks for the kindness and smiles and cheerful helpfulness and patient answering of what must sometimes seem like endless questions! Thanks for caring about and bring out the best in our children and for helping them to believe in themselves as young artists! They can get so many negative messages at this age (from society, from their peers, even from their schools), so I think it is wonderful that a positive, loving spirit permeates all the challenges to be their best and work hard. The excellence and professionalism modeled speaks for itself!
What a privilege it has been to make and experience such beautiful music together, even if only for one short year! If we had stayed in the area, I would certainly want my daughter to participate next year along with Andrew, as I have seen what it can do for a child with musical inclinations. Andrew has absolutely loved it and will miss it terribly. I have a music ed. degree and still work with music education in schools and churches, yet I have never seen anything as impressive as every aspect of the SVCC. That is why I enjoyed sitting in on the rehearsals so much. Not only did it help me support Andrew, but I learned so much about how to inspire and work more effectively with young musicians. The sheer beauty of the music was restorative to my heart and soul, especially since our family was going through a tough time in other aspects.
~ Laurie Barbour, parent of Andrew (2003-2004)
To the McClay family, the SVCC represents vision. When Julia White started the choir 15 years ago, it was with a vision of where the choir would and could be today. Our children were not even born when the choir began, yet they are enjoying the fruits of those first rehearsals! A top-notch choral program does not happen by accident. In the SVCC, the time spent selecting quality literature, developing excellent singing habits, training ears to hear and bodies to perform is all purposeful. The expectation of attendance at mandatory performances ensures the singing quality that is attained in rehearsals, and develops a vision in the choristers that they are part of a bigger picture.
Because of this vision for excellence, our children have sung and are familiar with quality musical literature in a variety of languages. They have an appreciation for beautiful music and have broad musical tastes. Because of this vision for excellence, our children have had the experience of singing in out-of-state venues from Florida to Hawaii to New York City. They have experienced the feeling of a standing ovation rewarding hours of hard work. They have experienced the fun and friendship and camaraderie that develops among children who share a common love. Because of this vision for excellence, the SVCC is a treasure in the Shenandoah Valley!
~ Julie McClay, parent of Katie, Caleb, Kieran, Shannon (2002-2010)
“Don’t let anyone ever expect less than your best from you… if they do, they have insulted you.” Mrs. Anderson spoke these words to the Preparatory and Treble choristers on Orientation night this September. It is this pursuit of excellence that separates SVCC from any other activity in which our children participate. It elevates this choir to a level of performance that ranks it among the top children’s choirs in the nation. As a parent of a Prep chorister, I see this standard of excellence manifested in every aspect of the program.
As my daughter has progressed from Explorers I to Explorers II, and now to Prep Choir, I have seen that the organizational framework of the early classes reflects the goals for future choristers. The precisely written notes provide parents with explanations needed to guide younger children through the weekly homework sheets. These assignments are systematically designed to begin teaching concepts and skills that the future choristers will strive to master.
During my first practice session at home with my daughter as a Prep chorister, I began to say to myself, “That’s why they did that in Explorers”. Over and over, I recognized that those two years of brilliantly taught music games and strategically planned activities had prepared my daughter to enter Prep Choir with confidence. For those students who have just begun the program as a Prep or Treble chorister, the directors offer lots of encouragement and practical advice to help them succeed as well.
The weekly rehearsals reveal this embrace of excellence each Monday evening. While clearly upholding high expectations, Ms. White and Mrs. Anderson instruct with positive energy and passion. By emphasizing punctuality, order, responsibility, and discipline, these directors convey to the children that they are part of something extremely significant. As a parent, I love that my daughter has the privilege of learning in a setting where her best is truly expected and mediocrity is not acceptable.
The choices of music to be studied and performed also demonstrate this striving for excellence that sets SVCC apart. The children learn to appreciate other cultures when they memorize music in those languages. The difficulty level of the pieces requires the children to work hard through personal practice at home and rewards them when they meet the challenge. As a parent, I love to listen (and sometimes sing along) as my daughter works to master the music measure by measure. I also appreciate that the children are encouraged to explore the spiritual meanings and Biblical context of lyrics from sacred music. To me, this demonstrates SVCC’s commitment to the development of the whole child as it enhances each child’s personal experience and therefore the collective performance.
My thoughts as a parent would not be complete without a description of an experience at the Saturday retreat on Sept. 10. As the Concert Choir welcomed the Prep and Treble choristers by singing “Make new friends and keep the old… One is silver and the other gold”, the younger choristers filed in to begin their pursuit of excellence and a life-long love of music. After listening to this short song a few times, the younger children began to blend their voices with those of the older children until they could be heard singing in a round. At that moment; as the old voices mixed with the new in a sound so pure, I knew that my daughter had just embarked on a life-changing journey. When the time comes when these children’s voices are no longer heard in that chapel, the qualities instilled during their time at SVCC will continue to resonate in all areas of their lives as they reach maturity. As a parent, I am thankful that my daughter has been granted the gift of such a wondrous opportunity.
~ Celia Layman, parent of Erin and Nathaniel (2005-2010)
Funny…captivating…and delightful…and this just describes the announcements! What talent those children have for being comfortable on stage!!
As usual, I sat during this evening’s concert, eyes closed, just letting the beautiful sounds of the treble and concert choirs wash over me. Amazing…. I leave each time with my soul filled and my heart so much lighter. Thank you for all the hard work you and the children give each time to make such heavenly sounds. How blessed we are to have this high level of performance in such a small town.
This was my daughter Emily’s first SVCC concert and she was so excited. She was truly captivated by the sounds of the choirs. The variety of music held her attention and I know she enjoyed seeing and hearing the extra percussion instruments as well. We are now looking forward to the Christmas concert in December!
I have also enjoyed watching Joy teach Emily’s Beginner’s class. She is a very gifted lady and her lessons are so well planned to hold the attention of five-year-olds. Long before I had children, I dreamed of having a child in SVCC. Now the time has finally come!
Thank you, Julia, and the SVCC staff and support team for giving us such wonderful music!
~ Karen Reichard, music educator and parent of Emily (2008-2009)
Joy, thanks so much for your expertise in music class. I am amazed by your organization, enthusiasm, balancing of play and structure and gentle way of reminding.
~ Lynette Mast, parent of Michaela, Sylvia, and Isaac (2001-2009)
Once again I want to thank you for your hard work and dedication to SVCC. Betsy feels so privileged to be part of such a special and wonderful choir. It has definitely been a highlight of the last four years for her. The choir has brought so much joy to our family and friends. We all look forward to each concert, and we love listening to the CDs here at home. God bless you all!
~ Mary Ellen Barrett parent of Betsy (2003-2007)
Wonderful Hawaii concert last Friday. Wow. I had smiles and tears and laughs,lots of every emotion hearing all that music. I was blown away by howtight and beautifully synchronized the music was, what an incredible experience, so much strength in themusic. You shaped the whole concert beautifully. Wow. I loved it. Very happy night of music for me. Thanks so much. How many times have you been told you gave a child a lifelong experience that would fundamentallyshape them as a person, and a musician. Well, I would like to be the next one to say so. I’ll always be grateful to you for that.
~ Lynne Mackey, parent of Sophie (2005-2010)
From community members:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu must have felt that angels were indeed singing to him when the SVCC performed for him at the Convocation Center. Since “Abide With Me” is one of his favorite hymns, it made the event that much more special for the audience and for honored guests. Thanks to the choir for making it a truly spectacular evening!
Having never heard the choir, I was completely overwhelmed by the musicianship but also the behavior of this group as they practiced on Thursday evening and then waited patiently on Friday evening for their start time. Of course, it was an exciting time, but their level of maturity and attention to what their role was spoke to the discipline that is needed to be a part of this truly amazing group.
~ Glenda Rooney, Assistant to the Provost, JMU, September 2007
I want to tell you how impressed we were with the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir at the recent event honoring Desmond Tutu. We had not seen the SVCC in performance but were well aware of your wonderful reputation. As Glenda was so involved in the event, I was able to watch your fine group in both rehearsal and the wonderful performance. As you well know, watching any group in a rehearsal for just a few minutes can tell you so much about the quality of the group. I was so impressed with the professionalism of the children and how well trained they were. The thing that was most impressive was the musicianship of the group. Not only were they singing with mature voices for children, but their pitch and musical phrasing was exemplary. I look forward to hearing your wonderful group in the future and hope that our grandson will be able to take advantage of this great opportunity.
~ Dr. Pat Rooney, Professor of Music Emeritus, JMU, September 2007
Once again the SVCC Christmas concert was spectacular with excellent repertoire and exemplary choral singing and interpretation of each selection. Congratulations on your choral leadership and achievements with the choirs. Thank you for making my Christmas a special one with your choral music presentation.
~ Judy Henneberger, music educator
I want to personally thank you for the service you perform in bringing music to the Valley’s children. My husband and I just inaugurated our second advent together the way we did our first—by attending your Christmas concert. Seeing the children performing together literally brought me to tears. I was overcome with happy memories. When I was in middle school and high school, I sang with the Chanticleer Children’s Choir in Clarksburg, WV. CCC gave me structure and safety that I lacked in other parts of my life, as well as opportunities for travel—we toured Scotland and sang on NPR. Most importantly, it was in this choir, at the age of eleven, that I met the boy who would grow up to be my husband. Thirteen years later, we can hardly wait to have little choristers of our own!
We’re so happy that a high-quality children’s choir exists in the place where we have made our home. Please accept this small token of our appreciation and support. We only wish we could do more.
~ Alisha and J. C. Huber
Thanks for the complimentary tickets & CD of the Children’s Choir. The program on Dec. 2nd at EMU was outstanding! It was great to see our Rockingham County students and parents. Thanks for teaching high standards and setting lofty goals for our children in this way. I was most proud to see your performance for the first time.
~ Dr. Carol Fenn, Superintendent of Rockingham County Schools
I attended the concert on Sunday afternoon, enjoyed the music very much, and was impressed all over again with the music you draw from young singers. Congratulations! Thank you! And may you live a thousand years!
Fifteen years is a great run for any arts organization, but I neither see nor hear anything that would suggest to me that the expiration date for the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir is anywhere on the horizon! Thanks for the 15 years, for the energy that went into getting it started, the attention that is required to keep it alive. And thanks for being a fine musician through it all!! Bless you, Julia…and thanks.
~ Ken Nafziger, Director of Choral Activities, EMU
We did love hearing your Christmas groups and the brass too. That was our oxygen for the season! Thanks for giving such wonderful music to the area, Julia. We appreciate the excellent experience you are giving these children.
~ Betty and John Hickox, music educators and performers, Lexington, VA
Bravo! Brava!! Bravissimo!!! Bravissimi, Julia, to you and the ENTIRE choral organization, from children to parents to community helpers, what an undertaking and achievement!!!! And what a wonderful concert with the brass and organ. Do it again in a few hours!!!!! Best wishes and kudos forever,
~ Bob Bersson, Community member
I first heard the SVCC as a music education major at EMU when I attended a joint concert given by the American Boychoir and the SVCC. From that point on, I knew the SVCC was an organization I wanted to learn more about.
In my senior year, I requested and was granted permission to create a conducting internship with Julia White and the SVCC. Studying with Ms. White is not the class to choose if one is afraid to work hard! My internship requirements included attendance at retreats, practices (where I needed to take careful notes, reporting what I saw, learned, did, and could do better next week), and performances. Each week I met with Ms. White and we practiced my conducting skills, analyzed music, and discussed texts that I had read on children’s choirs and the child’s voice. It was a lot of work, but the hands-on learning and opportunity to work with such a first class choir was unparalleled.
There are so many memories that I have of my time with the SVCC but several stick out in my mind. One memory is the visit by the American Boychoir; I was able to sit in on master classes and work on analysis with the director. Another opportunity was recording a piece with the SVCC for their CD Winds of Peace. Not many college students have their name in print as a student conductor on a CD! My fondest memory is the choristers! I will never forget the friendly demeanor of the singers in the SVCC, their enthusiasm, love of music, and work ethic! In my bedroom hangs a SVCC spring concert poster signed by the entire Concert Choir. It is one of my favorite keepsakes.
As a music teacher and choir director, I pull out exercises and singing games that I learned while working with the choir. Each and every one always helped my students to become better singers and musicians.
Today I am living and teaching near Vienna, Austria and, in some of my classes, music has been the bridge between two different languages and cultures. I was so blessed by my time working with the SVCC and will always consider it one of the most valuable experiences of my life! I knew that it would be a great experience, but little did I know that it would be one of the most professionally beneficial things I would do during my musical studies in college.
~ Rachel Bucher, EMU student intern