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‘They were simply outstanding!’

PHS Concert Choir performs at IMEA Conference

The Princeton High School Concert Choir
The Princeton High School Concert Choir

PRINCETON — Memories and history were made when Princeton High School’s Concert Choir performed at the recent Illinois Music Educators Association (IMEA) conference in Peoria.

The PHS Concert Choir was one of only three choirs selected from throughout state to perform at the conference. This was Princeton’s first time to be selected for the honor.

Concert Choir members Miles Rose, Kim Schlesinger and Matthew Butler talked about what it meant to them personally for the choir to perform at the state conference, as well as the impact of music on their own lives.

The whole process to audition and be accepted was an extremely long process, which began last year with the sending of recordings from last year’s rehearsals and concerts, Butler said. When PHS choir director Brandon Crawford told the choir it had been chosen to perform at the IMEA conference, he didn’t realize at first how big of a deal it was, Butler said.

Not only did the PHS Concert Choir make history for being the first ever PHS choir to go to the IMEA convention, the choir also made history because it sang an unpublished song, “Verbum Caro Factum Est,” written by C. Randall Stroope.

The unpublished song had originally been written for the Lutheran College Nordic Choir, from Decorah, Iowa, which performed it on tour last summer, Butler said. But Stroope then made a new arrangement of his unpublished song, and the PHS Concert Choir was the first choir to perform the new arrangement. Stroope will publish the version sang by PHS, Butler said.

In his comments, Rose said he was surprised when he heard the PHS Concert Choir had been selected as one of three choirs to perform at the IMEA convention. The news came out so unexpectedly. To be selected for an all-state performance, who could miss that great opportunity, he said.

Looking back at the performance, Rose said he tried not to get nervous but to think of it as another performance, knowing the choir had prepared well and to remember the choir was good enough to be chosen.

Kim Schlesinger agreed, saying the choir had worked hard to get where it was. At first, she and the other choir members just didn’t realize what a big deal it really was to be selected to perform at the IMEA conference, where they sang seven songs in a 30-minute time period. It was an honor for the PHS Concert Choir and the PHS music program to be there, she said.

Since coming to PHS and becoming part of the music program, music has become less of a hobby and more of a lifestyle for her, Schlesinger said. Being in the choir has really built a sense of togetherness for students who are involved in very different activities. Music ties people together, she said.

Music has a lot of meaning to him emotionally, Butler said. His mom was his biggest inspiration with music, always asking him to sing or play his instrument for her. He sings for his mom, who passed away last fall.

In his thoughts, Rose said music has given emotion and meaning to life. Music is more than just music; it’s more of an art that is a form of your life, he said.

Attending the Concert Choir’s performance at the IMEA conference were the entire PHS administrative team, as well as several current and former staff members.

On Monday, PHS Principal Andy Berlinski said he would liken the selection of the PHS Concert Choir for the IMEA conference as to making it to the state finals in basketball, volleyball or any other sport. The selection was a testament to the hard work of not only the current students and instructor Brandon Crawford, but also to the former students and former director, Joy Schertz, he said.

“I felt extremely proud to see our students, Mr. Crawford and Ms. Schertz, as a guest conductor, represent the high school and community in such outstanding fashion. It was a terrific performance,” Berlinski said.

PHS Superintendent Kirk Haring said it was a “fantastic honor” for PHS to be selected to perform at one of the premiere professional development conferences in the nation. The Concert Choir worked extremely hard to earn the honor, and it’s a tremendous accomplishment for everyone involved with the PHS music program, he said.

“It was great to be able to share the PHS Concert Choir’s passion and creativity with music educators throughout Illinois,” Haring said. “I have no doubt that everyone that was able to attend the performance went away amazed at the talent that was on display. They were simply outstanding!”

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