Northeast Kansas students converge on Nortonville for music festival
Story and photo by Dennis Sharkey
More than 300 students from area schools piled into Jefferson County North Middle School last week to sing together.
The Delaware Valley League 7th and 8th grade mass choir and clinic takes students from eight schools and gives one music director four hours to cajole the group together for a musical concert.
The students began practicing around 9 a.m. last Wednesday, Feb. 1, and then performed a singing concert for the public at 1:30 p.m.
Dr. Ruth Krusemark, chairwoman of the Benedictine College music department, was picked by this year’s host school music director Barbara Metcalfe.
Krusemark said she has known Metcalfe for several years and sends student teachers to Nortonville.
She said working with 12- and 13-year-old students is much different from working with college students. She said college students know what to expect.
“You have to have a completely different focus,” she said.
Working with college students is more like refining technique and blending the music together. The challenge with younger students can be focus but it can also be things like changing voices or breathing properly.
“You have to work a lot more mechanics with the young kids,” she said.
Krusemark said when working with younger students one cannot let the students sit around.
“It’s difficult,” she said. “You just go right to work and you don’t let them have any downtime.”
There are also varying degrees of which the students know the material.
“Some of them know it quite well,” she said. “Others are much less confident. We want it to be a good experience nonetheless.”
This is not the first mass choir event for Krusemark. Four years ago she was called the night before to substitute for another teacher. She said she had little time to worry about what to do.
“I didn’t have any expectations,” she said. “I said, ‘Okay. Go.’”
Krusemark said when working with a short window there isn’t much time to work on all of the details.
“You just pick out those things you know you can fix in the time you have,” she said.
Included in the eight schools that participated were Valley Falls and McLouth in addition to JCN.
Krusemark said the individual school instructors basically get to enjoy the day.
“I tell them to go relax,” she said. “This is your day off.”
Krusemark said the most important thing is that the kids have fun. She said it’s a good time to make new friends and reinforce the power of music.
“This age gets excited about everything,” she said. “We want them to get excited about music.”
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