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Redlands High Chamber Singers give impressive performance [Redlands Daily Facts (CA)]

December 8, 2013

YellowBrix

Singing has been a part of Mia Character's life for so long, she wouldn't know how to live without it.

Music makes her feel free and happy, said the 15-year-old Redlands High School sophomore and first alto in the school's chamber singers.

Mia's emotions were obviously contagious and magically afflicted senior/soprano Stephany Jumalon, 17, and 35 other Redlands' peers performing at the 2013 Biola University Invitational High School Chamber Choir Festival in November.

Redlands - once again the largest ensemble at the festival presented by the university's Conservatory of Music and Biola University Chorale conductor Shawna Stewart - warmed the hearts and clapping hands of an audience impressed with the group's energy, technical skill and enthusiasm.

"There is so much energy in this room today," Stewart said after hearing eight of Southern California's best high school chamber choirs. "We're so glad you're here to share the magic of music."

She rhetorically asked, "What would high school be like without a choir?" and teens responded with cries of dismay.

She assured them there were still schools where policy-makers, parents and teachers say in a unified voice, "I'm going to take a chance on you, invest in you and bring you into this creative process. They understand music brings emotions and light into life."

"To those people," Stewart said, "we say, thank you."

The Biola festival also featured Bonita High School's Chamber Singers, directed by Todd Helm. The La Verne choir premiered 17- year-old Jacob Broussard's "Spirit Come" choral composition as well as "I'll Be On My Way," a new work by internationally acclaimed arranger, tenor, pianist and Los Angeles Master Chorale composer-in- residence Shawn Kirchner of La Verne.

Redlands conductor Kenneth Tuttle has artistically transformed the lives of thousands of teenagers during 36 years of teaching. At Biola, he conducted in a style simultaneously subtle and spirited. He physically put the feelings of and for the music in his own body and face to convey conviction to his singers and the teenagers in turn evoked emotions from the audience.

It didn't matter if it was the playful rendition of "Cindy" with guitarist Nate Brown accompanying the folk song sung by elementary- school singers throughout America; the American lullaby "All The Pretty Little Horses," which stirred mental images of a child being gently lulled to sleep; or the engaging spiritual "Entreat Me Not To Leave You," based on love-and-loyalty lyrics from the Bible's Book of Ruth.

It was all good and achieved what Stephany said are the two most important goals in music: to provoke emotional enjoyment and develop appreciation.

Tuttle has spent 23 of his 36 years in music education at Redlands High School and previously taught at Loara High School in Anaheim. His chamber choirs of sophomores, juniors and seniors have been invited to the Biola songfest for 28 years.

Although the musical results of his teaching are impressive, Tuttle said music is only the conduit for his real purpose in working with teens.

"I want them to evolve into competent adults who fully participate in society and cultural programs," Tuttle said. "It's important for them to learn to express themselves in positive ways through the arts, appreciate aesthetics, learn how to work with others in cooperative and interdependent ways and understand diverse cultures and people."

According to Tuttle, teens should be able to do more than botanically describe a flower. He wants them to see the beauty of the flower's color, scent, appearance.

"The arts help them do that," he said.

His message was convincingly conveyed, according to Redlands Chamber Singers alumni David Strum, 20, and 19-year-olds Alea Peister and Austin Niebres. They still feel the cultural connections and impacts made during participation in choir.

"I'm more mature and confident," Niebres noted.

Alea said she gained a second family with her choir peers and her choral experience was a "true blessing that will last my entire life. Getting to make music with people I love made me a better adult."

Strum said becoming part of a choral team taught him how to responsibly interact with others in diverse situations.

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