Today we spent the day with choirs from the Crystal Children's Choruses on the Peninsula, Hoover Middle School, Giannini Middle School, and Presidio Middle School, as well as Ragazzi - also from the Peninsula. It's very good to see middle school students singing - so many middle school programs have been cut - at least in the Bay AreaBen reports Today marked the first of three youth choral festivals Chanticleer will be producing this season. This one, a Bay Area middle school festival, saw 230 students from five choirs: Presidio Middle School, A.P. Giannini Middle School, Ragazzi Boys Chorus, Herbert Hoover Middle School, and Crystal Children's Choir. It was a day filled with beautiful music and profound artistic dialogue. Thank you to Anna Karney, Courtney Lindl, Joyce Keil, Kenneth Koppes, Stella Lin, Karl Chang, Anna Lin, Suzanne Garramone, and Othello Jefferson for their work in preparing the choirs and making today possible!

For the combined choir portion, we sang the aleatoric, "A Pentatonic Alleluia" by Ross Whitney, Rollo Dilworth's "Shine on Me," and Jim Papoulis's "Amani (A Song of Peace)." We addressed what goes into making an especially effective performance, including how to use the voice, the body, the face, and the heart. We delved into spiritual style and crafted long, shapely phrases. We even incorporated some choral-ography; which isn't as elaborate as choreography, but definitely involves changing formations and accented movements.

In the afternoon, members of Chanticleer gave workshops to each choir on their own repertoire. It's here that the most detailed work and glorious transformations occur. In my drifting from one classroom to the next, I witnessed one of the most beautiful moments in my education career. After an especially moving rehearsal of "Down By the River to Pray" where the singers breathed as one and sang unconducted, their teacher remarked, with tears, the pride in witnessing the middle schoolers' transformation in that moment from mere singers to true musicians. This is why we educators do what we do - we live to facilitate and witness moments like these that are bound to change our students for the better. The hard work pays off and we glimpse a brilliant future in the luminous present.

Our next choral festival happens in Darien, Connecticut on March 4, to be followed shortly by our second ever mega-festival, The Singing Life. This second National Youth Choral Festival involves 10 schools from around the country and four days of choral nerd-dom, capped by a performance at Davies Symphony Hall on Monday, March 30. We fill the stage to overflowing with students - it's an event not to be missed.