The two-day Southern Invitational Choral Conference featured public performances from a variety of choral ensembles earlier this week. The conference welcomed hundreds of high school students to campus. During their stay, the students participated in fast-paced rehearsals and learned the skills required for collegiate level choirs.
Pascagoula High School choir director Nancy Leigh Strum chose students that catch on quickly and work hard.
“I hope that being a part of SICC will boost my students’ confidence,” Leigh said. “It is also essential that they learn the importance of music theory to advance their abilities.”
This is the second year Leigh has taken part of the conference. Two of her students now attend The University of Southern Mississippi, a decision partially influenced by the experiences they had at SICC. After the first day of rehearsals, high school students had the opportunity to see the USM choral department perform at the Southern Miss Showcase Concert on Monday night. The performance kicked off the semester for USM choirs as the first concert of this academic year.
USM President Rodney Bennett gave a welcoming speech to the visiting students before the Southern Miss Women’s Choir proceeded into the auditorium.
“We are excited to see so many new faces. The choral program at USM is achieving at the highest level in the region and nation, and I anticipate we will continue to be a leader in artistic development this coming year.” – Bennett
The goal of the conference every year is to show prospective students the opportunities they have in the music department, despite the level of training they hold. Webb Parker, director of the Women’s Choir at USM, explained the purpose of SICC and what the School of Music tries to accomplish by hosting it.
“We have a place for everyone in the School of Music, no matter what your level of experience is,” Parker said. “We all come together to form one voice and sing beautifully. Of course, we want to heighten students’ musical skills, but it is really an experience of music that words cannot express.”
Parker described the sense of community that students build while participating in the conference. It allows a diverse community to come together and build relationships with a variety of people.
“This program has become a tradition and it grows every year,” Parker said. “We have over 800 people on campus right now involved with this event.”
The concert showcased classical and pop pieces, solo artists, a capella groups and accompanying musicians, including every part of the School of Music.
The following day, the high school and junior college honor choirs rehearsed for the last time and congregated at Main Street Baptist. After 27 hours of practice, the students demonstrated the skills they learned.
Fifteen-year-old Kaitlyn Gladdis, an alto from Forest High School, said her first time at SICC was hard work, but she would love to come back and participate again.
“It was difficult at first, but the conductors made it fun,” Gladdis said. “I learned that it isn’t good to always put the spotlight on yourself, but coming together and working towards a common goal is sometimes more important. Many voices are better than one.”