Brock University: Music students’ talent shines on provincial stage

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After spending the summer fine-tuning their choral skills, three Brock Music students are ready to start the school year on a high note.

Third-year student Caroline Young and fourth-year students Isaiah Burry and Lee Bakker found themselves surrounded by talented and inspired chorists from across the province after successfully auditioning for the Ontario Youth Choir (OYC) earlier this year.

The OYC is an honour choir that showcases the skills and abilities of Ontario singers between the ages of 16 and 23. The 10-day summer training intensive gives students the chance to be part of a large group of motivated and enthusiastic singers, with their hard work culminating in a final performance.

The OYC’s selection process began with an audition, which included a solo piece, vocal warm-ups to gauge the performer’s vocal range and a piece chosen by the OYC to be performed acapella.

Having successfully completed the audition process Bakker, Burry and Young quickly came to realize that they were among a collective of gifted chorists.

“I was surrounded by so many voice majors and talented instructors, it really challenged me,” Young said. “This opportunity definitely helped me grow as a musician.”

Prior to living in Ontario, Burry was part of the B.C. Youth Choir. His time with OYC, however, left him impressed by the talent he found himself immersed in.

“Everyone was studying voice in some manner on a university level and being surrounded by those like-minded individuals was really cool,” he said.

As the program got underway, it became clear that it had a different dynamic than most choral programs, Burry said. Rather than creating a student and teacher environment, it offered more of an artistic collective.

“They treat you as a colleague and because of that, there’s a lot more responsibility,” Burry said. “We rehearsed, on average, eight hours a day and by the end of the day, if there was something that still needed to be worked on for you personally, then that was your responsibility. You had to do your part because the next day everyone was going to be working on something else.”

The program and its final performance was a rejuvenating experience for all three Brock students as they prepared to head into the new academic year.

“I feel like I can take more risks now, especially with solo performances,” said Young. “If I can stand up and audition for the OYC then I can definitely stand up and perform for the Brock Choir.”

Burry said the final performance left him with a “feeling of motivation reignited in me.”

“In my mind, I chalked it up to the fact that what I was getting through OYC was a glimpse at the next step of being a professional chorister,” he said.

In attendance at the final performance was Associate Professor Rachel Rensink-Hoff, Conductor of the Brock University Choir and Sora Singers, and Artistic Director of the Avanti Chamber Singers.

“The Ontario Youth Choir has played a significant role in the lives of young choral singers across the province for many decades and it was very special to have three of our own students representing Brock’s Music program in this prestigious choral ensemble,” Rensink-Hoff said. “To witness the energy and passion in their culminating performance, particularly given the obstacles faced by choral musicians over the past two and a half years, was heartwarming. I look forward to encouraging future students to audition for this tremendous musical experience.”

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