Branch United Youth Choir

Life Update March 2019

Yes, it’s that time again! Much has happened since January, and much more will happen in the coming months.

Singing

Sounding Light

This week, I’ll be singing my first gig with Sounding Light, a talented professional choir based in Oakland County, MI. We’ll be singing Muehleisen’s Pieta, a massive work reflecting on the pain and sorrow of war. Here are the performances. Come to one of them, Detroit-area, Flint, Frankenmuth, and Cleveland friends!

Friday, March 15 – 7:30 p.m.

Featuring Stoney Creek High School Choir
Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
1007 Superior Avenue E
Cleveland, OH 44114

Sunday, March 17 – 4:00 p.m.

Featuring Stoney Creek High School Choir
First Presbyterian Church
746 S. Saginaw St.
Flint, MI 48502

Saturday, March 16 – 7:00 p.m.

Featuring Stoney Creek High School Choir
Our Shepherd Lutheran Church
2225 East Fourteen Mile Rd.
Birmingham, MI 48009

Monday, March 18 – 7:30 p.m.

Featuring Stoney Creek High School Choir
St. Lorenz Church
140 Churchgrove Rd.
Frankenmuth, MI 48734

Battle Creek Master Singers

I’ll also be singing with the Battle Creek Master Singer’s Cabaret on March 23 & 24 featuring the wonderful voice of Rhea Olivacce as the guest artist.

I highly recommend coming! People who come enjoy the music, the food, the beverages, and the fun!

Writing

I’ve been quite happy with the positive reception of The Giftless Chronicles. I’ve had people who don’t even read the YA Fantasy genre say that they had to know what happened next in the story.

Shadows and Nightmares: A Story of the Giftless Chronicles (available on Amazon), is the follow-up to my first novel. I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. My characters grew, the world I created was further developed in mythology and history, and there was some great humor and action.  Ultimately, the story is about trauma and healing, but with some awesome monster-killing action in between. My story has been out for a month, and people really seem to like it!

I’m currently working on my second full-length novel set in this universe. It will set up the final struggle with the big bad in book 3. Can they stop The Return, and what will it cost them?

Conducting

As always, I’m conducting a lot. My singers in West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts will be putting on their final concert of the year on April 9, and then I’ll be working with another homeschool ensemble until early June. I wrote a new music-reading curriculum for my singers that has been quite effective, and we’re advancing to nerdier stuff like asymmetrical meters and intervals.

My Branch United Youth Choir in Coldwater, MI will host its annual choir camp (dates to be announced soon!). It’s always a great four days! If you know of anyone in the south-central MI/Northern Indiana area with kids, this would be a great opportunity to learn about singing and reading music. Best of all, the kids have fun with music and make new friends.

Celebris Ensemble performed our first Christmas concert in December! I’m happy with the group and very excited for our next concert (soon to be announced). Stay tuned!

 

Life Update December 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so please bear with me. Life has been quite busy, and December is a musician’s money-making season. I will have done 10 different performances between Dec. 1-22! Add that to a novella in my Giftless Chronicles that I’m editing, and I’m keeping busy! So, without further ado, here is my life update.

*Inhales Deeply*

Vessel for the Arts presents The Story (Dec. 7-16)

While I have participated in theater productions as a singer, this was the first time I have ever conducted a musical. It certainly has been a growing experience for me, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Learning words such as “vamping” and “striking,” working with an orchestrator, voice coaching, conducting actor/singers and orchestra—it’s all been a blast. All the people involved have been wonderful. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

You all need to see this production. It’s pretty cool. And you’ll even get to watch the back of my head for the entire performance! We have four more performances this weekend in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Check out this link to find performance times & locations.

A Celebris Christmas (Dec. 22 @ 7 pm)

I feel like we’re finally hitting our stride with the Celebris Ensemble, and I’m excited to say that we’re performing our first Christmas concert! Come to the Celebris Ensemble’s first Christmas concert! We’ve got some wonderful music lined up for my concert next week. The singers are all top-notch and the repertoire is not too shabby, if I do say so myself. We’ll be singing Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, some Praetorius, some Whitacre, and more! Finish off your season of attending Christmas concerts by coming to ours at Oshtemo United Methodist Church.

West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts

My kids will be singing tonight! They have done great work, and I’m excited to announce that we will be participating in the Michigan School Vocal Music Association’s Choral Festival (MSVMA) this year! It’ll be fun taking on the public schoolers!

Branch United Youth Choir

We finished the first half of our season by singing with the Branch County Community Chorus on Dec. 1. The kids did a great job. I’m very proud. Now, I need to prepare for the second half starting on Jan. 22…

Miscellaneous

It is always thrilling to see my students grow as singers and artists! To that end, I’m still teaching voice lessons. I also am performing with different ensembles here in MI! I think that about wraps it up. Have a Merry Christmas!

Life Update August 2018

Well, the fall season is fast approaching, and I am busily organizing things in order to be prepared. I’m incredibly excited about the opportunities the Lord has given me,  and I even have some opportunities for others that I can share!

Vessel for the Arts—The Story

This fall, I will be the music director for a production called “The Story.” It is a series of vignettes from the Bible (Adam & Eve, Esther, Daniel, Jesus, Mary Magdelene, etc.). I’ll be conducting the orchestra and working with the voices. The performances are Dec. 7, 14, 16 at Comstock Community Auditorium and Dec. 8 & 15 at Caledonia High School Fine Arts Center.

*Big Announcement!!!!* 

We are hosting auditions on Aug. 21-25. If you are interested in the mission of Vessel for the Arts and want to try out, please come. The project will be a lot of fun, and we’ll present gospel truth in an engaging and artistic manner! Click Here for audition and rehearsal information.

Branch United Youth Choir—Coldwater, MI

We’re starting our fifth year (can you believe it!) of empowering young singers in this rural community in south-central MI. We just hosted a wonderful choir camp on June 25-28. The kids enjoyed themselves and learned about musical theater. Our next season looks like this:

Fall Semester:
Oct 2-Nov 27—Rehearsals
Dec 1—Concert
Fall Tuition: $80
Spring Semester:
Jan 22-Feb 26—Rehearsals
Mar 1—Concert
Spring Tuition: $80
There are tuition scholarships available for those who are interested but aren’t sure how to pay for the choir. We want to make music training and empowerment available to all.
As a cool thing, if you are a homeschooler, you can get your tuition paid for by the Gull Lake Partnership

West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts

I will continue to conduct the Kalamazoo Jr./Sr. High Choir for the WMHFA. Even though last year was a first year for all of us, we made some great strides. My goal is to keep the momentum going. We’ll be participating in MSVMA this year and everything. To all my school teacher friends—I’ll see you there!

Celebris Ensemble

This last May, I started a small vocal ensemble in Kalamazoo. We sang a fun concert with some early music, contemporary music, and vocal jazz. We’ll be singing some concerts in the next few months, including in October and December. Stay tuned!!!

Voice Lessons

I’m thankful that there seems to be a lot of interest in voice lessons for the fall/spring season. If you are interested in them, contact me here. My goal is to get my students to become the best singers they can be in the shortest time possible. You’ll get a solid foundation of healthy vocal technique, and I will get you to the next level!

Book Stuff

Those of you who’ve been following me know that I put out a book in April. I’m happy to announce that I’ve completed a novella in my same Giftless Chronicles universe. I’m currently finishing the first round of editing. I hope to get this out soon, with perhaps another related project!

My Music

I also published a song called The Hunter and His Love. Listen to it on Spotify and buy it and stuff.  The more you listen to it, the more bills I get to pay and the more music I get to create!
Okay, I think that’s it.

Life Update July 2018

All of us know that life can get busy. Most of us, however, like to work on one project at a time. There’s only one problem with all of that for me: I’m a musician. My life is a continuous set of gigs.

The good thing about this is that I rarely do the same thing in the same place for more than a couple of times. Variety is the spice of life, and I love the challenge of taking on a new project, performance, or job. For a professional musician, life is a like a box of chocolates…and stuff.

The downside is that sometimes I don’t feel like a professional musician, but rather like a professional plate spinner.

Such a lost art!

Anyway, without further ado, here has been my life since my last life update:

West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts

I concluded a wonderful season with my homeschool choir. They were a blessing to me, and I don’t say that lightly. The kids brought an enthusiasm and focus to choral singing that I have never seen in that age group. We learned a lot and made some wonderful music. I greatly look forward to conducting them again in the fall.

Branch United Youth Choir

We finished our season with a collaboration with the irrepressible Nancy Brown and the Union City Community Chorale. The chorale was excited to have us there, and we even sang a song with them, which is always fun.

We also recently finished our annual choir camp (June 18-21). I taught them how to sing and gave them some basic sight-reading skills. Our theme this year  was Musical Theatre. The kids learned about the history of musical theatre (yay for learning stuff!) and how we got to styles that are used in musical theatre performances today. We did a scene from The Pirates of Penzance and sang some wonderful music from different musicals.

The Giftless Chronicles: The Vampire Conspiracy (Book 1)

A couple months ago, I had the privilege of publishing my first book. It’s a Young Adult novel and it’s about (hard to guess, I know) a vampire conspiracy. It’s a been an intriguing opportunity to learn about the self-publishing world. One of the best compliments have received multiple times is that readers “had to know what happened next.” To me, that is a sign of an engaging book. Please take a look at it and buy it!

I’m also excited to announce that I’m 14,000 words into a novella (17,000-39,999 words) set in the same world. This time, I’m focusing on one of the other characters, Corinne, and her adventures as she learns to be a Chronicler. Lots of exciting action, drama, and new characters to meet as I delve deeper into this rich universe!

Celebris Ensemble

It’s been a dream of mine to sing with a dedicated, talented group of singers. I formed an small choral ensemble here in Kalamazoo, and our first concert was on May 22nd at Bethany Reformed church. You can listen to some recordings and learn more about us at my Celebris tab. I’m working on next season, which should be some exciting performances. If you want to hire us for a gig, contact me at celebris.ensemble@gmail.com.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra Gig

At the beginning of June, I performed with a large group of professional singers (mostly made up of Audivi and Opera Modo) which sang in the DSO’s rendition of Puccini’s Turandot. It is some truly glorious music, and it was nice to sing in a mass choir of that caliber. The voices were powerful and resonant, and the musicianship of the singers was precise and focused.

DSO Gig 2018

Upcoming Gigs

I’ve already listed a few in my other sections, but here goes: My Detroit Choir Camp is the last week of July and the first week of August. If you are in the Detroit area and you want your kids have fun singing musical theatre, contact Noelle Stiekes here.

I made a recording of a folk ballad that I wrote, orchestrated, and produced.  It’s based in my Giftless Chronicles world (one of the characters sings the first stanza in my novel), and it’s about a Hunter and his love who go into the woods to fight an evil witch. The song turned out pretty cool, if I do say so myself. If you want to get a sneak preview, sign up to my email list. You get access to behind the scenes stuff there!

I signed on to be the music director of a production of “The Story.” It’s traces the gospel through various Bible accounts. It should be a great time of collaboration and I’m looking forward to our performance in December.

In March 2019, I’ll be singing a gig with Sounding Light, a professional choir based in Oakland County, MI.

I think that’s about it. If you have any interest in voice lessons, hiring me for a singing or conducting gig, please contact me. The more work the better.

Life Update October 2017

Well, it’s that time again: time to let the world know what is going on in my life. I’m excited about finishing several projects, some of which have taken years to come to completion!

Non-fiction Book on How to Sing

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I like to write and teach about singing. Helping students sing more healthily is a passion of mine. It is something I’ve worked long and hard at for several years. Through that time, I distilled the main elements of healthy singing into four easily understood categories. Most vocal problems can be reduced to one or more of these singing fundamentals.

Well, I finally put these awesome materials down in writing! I’m polishing some things in it and making helpful how-to videos that will make this book even more useful to the beginning singer. This book will enable the beginning singer to gain a clear understanding of the voice as an instrument. It will also help voice teachers who want to know how to teach beginning singers. My goal is to publish this by the end of the year.

Young Adult Fiction Novel

Yes, you read that right. I’ve been slowly writing my first fiction novel. I would have finished it sooner, but school and other priorities tend to take precedence. Thankfully, the book is nearing completion as well.

The book has it all: an evil conspiracy, monsters, hunters, lots of action, and martial arts! Ultimately, though, the book is about family, and how the choices they make impact their lives. I also plan to publish this soon!

Solo Singer Benefit Recital in November

I’ve wanted to sing a recital in Kalamazoo for a while. Now, I’ve made time to do it! I will be raising money for charity at the concert by singing a lot of different repertoire. There should be a little something for everybody. I will be performing jazz, choral, baroque, classical, and other styles of music. A lot of great musicians will be joining me for this event, so the music will be stellar. I will announce dates and what we’re raising money for soon. Stay posted!

Choral Extravaganza Next April

I have been working with several choirs in the south-central MI to host a benefit concert in April 2018. I’m really excited about this, as it accomplishes several things I’m passionate about. I love helping people, and I love collaborating with talented, motivated individuals. More to come on this as we get closer.

Regular Work

I’m also continuing to teach voice lessons and martial arts, conduct the West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts Kalamazoo Choir, lead worship at Calvary Baptist Church in Quincy, and direct the Branch United Youth Choir in Coldwater. Life is busy, but good!

 

The Branch United Youth Choir Just Received a Grant from Josh Groban’s Find Your Light Foundation!

A few years ago, the Branch United Youth Choir began with the intention of bringing the arts to youth in an (according to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs) artistically under-served county. With hard work and support from the community, we have changed lives. Children have learned to sing, formed lasting relationships, and created beautiful art.

We could not have started without help from motivated individuals in the area. A former music teacher graciously donated the use of a digital keyboard during rehearsal. It has proved invaluable over the past few years. We would have struggled without it. Unfortunately, the keyboard was feeling its age. It also did not possess a full 88  weighted keys or a sustain pedal.

With this in mind, we asked for a grant from Josh Groban’s Find Your Light Foundation in order to purchase a new keyboard. They are a wonderful group that supports other organizations that provide musical training and enrichment to children. They recently contacted us to let us know that we had been approved! We heartily thank them, and we want them to know how much we appreciate them. This donation will help us greatly as we seek to bring the arts to the youth of this rural community. I am so looking forward to using this when we start at the beginning of October!

BUYC Choir Camp 2017 Recap

Choir camps always prove to be enjoyable, busy, and exhausting weeks. Last week was no exception. We played games, worked hard, learned much, and sang a lot! Our theme this year was Songs of Childhood. We learned about how children are raised in different countries, and we even played children’s song games from all over the world. We will be doing one more this summer in Detroit (July 17-20). If you’re interested, here’s the site you need to visit!

Every year, I am amazed how much the kids can learn in 4 days, especially since some of the children have had little to no musical training! Here’s a quick overview of what I taught them:

IMG_1412Day 1:

First we started out with some fun camp songs. It is a choir camp, after all. You have to start with singing :). We then learned how to sing with good posture and how to sing in tune. We also began working on some songs that we would perform at the concert on Thursday. I made a new arrangement of “A la puerta del cielo,” which they sang pretty well.

Day 2:

We reviewed the words and melody to an Argentinian children’s game called “Caracol.” The game is kinda cool, but it takes a little while to be able to sing and play it at the same time if you don’t know Spanish. The kids played an Indian (from India) game called “Fire on the Mountain,” which they liked a lot.

Day 3:

IMG_1415The kids finally got to play “Caracol.” The word means “snail.” It’s a line game where one side of the line twists the other into “the shell.” Then, the opposite side of the line pulls everyone out again. The group picks up speed, and the children are flung outward onto the ground. Children love these kinds of games; they are played all over the world. Learning these games are a great way for kids to connect with other cultures.

Day 4:

IMG_1418One of our board members also leads a drumming circle at her church. She led a short djembe drumming class. This provided a nice change of pace as we were preparing for our end-of-camp concert later that night. The kids sang four songs. Some had harmony, because it is very important for children to sing in harmony if they want to grow musically. Children need to develop their ability to hold their own part while other parts are happening. This grows their musical hearing and performing skills.

IMG_1416Well, that about sums it up. The kids had a great time. They really seemed to enjoy learning about children from other cultures. They immensely enjoyed playing children’s games from other countries. What a fun and informative trip through the musical world!