The Times West Virginian


May 10, 2012

EFHS choral groups receive highest ratings

FAIRMONT — Trophies may decorate the East Fairmont High School classroom where choral director Skip Wilson teaches, but shiny gold awards can’t hold a candle to the impact students say he has made.

EFHS senior Katelyn Lawson can remember a time when she was shy, a time when she felt she had to hide her identity from the world. But thanks to her choral group and Wilson, she has blossomed. Learning from him and being around him has made an impact on her life.

“He has, as cliche as it sounds, made me the person I am today,” Lawson said. “He’s humbled me. He’s made me realize things. Sometimes, first place doesn’t really matter. It’s just your attitude, and just knowing that hard work and dedication can get you a lot further in life.”

Many other students have felt that impact, enough that they recently walked away from The National Music Festival in Williamsburg, Va., with four superior ratings and one group receiving the Outstanding Choir Award.

From New York to Florida and as far as Oklahoma, 24 teams competed.

“When I found out, it was very emotional, considering this is my last year,” Lawson said. “As soon as they called our name out, I started crying. I was like, ‘This is the perfect way to end my senior year.’ I was just overwhelmed with emotions. It’s good to know all my hard work and dedication paid off.”

Receiving superior ratings, the men’s ensemble, the women’s ensemble, the Barbershop Quartet and the Elizabethan Chamber Singers impressed the judges with their performances. The Elizabethan Chamber Singers scored 96 points, earning the honor of the Outstanding Choir Award. Five points separated them from the rest of the field, which is a huge difference in music ratings, according to Wilson.

Reaching this level was not an easy task, he said.

“That’s a lot of work and a lot of effort, and that’s a lot of listening to what I have to say and trusting me, and I always tell them I’ll be fair. I don’t judge them. I’ll treat them all the same. I’m just so proud of the kids.”

All Wilson can think about is those first few days of the school year when he had his students focus on the pronunciation of vowels. Going back to the vowels was part of the basics for his instruction. But months later, he realized even more how crucial those first few days were for his choral groups. Vowel pronunciation is even more difficult for students in West Virginia, who typically have the southern accent attached, he said.

Ratings are based on a number of factors, including musicality, pronunciation of vowels and consonants, and presentation. Now, the students are belting out difficult music, such as “Il bianco e dolce cigno,” which was one of the selected pieces performed by the Elizabethans at the festival. Pronunciation is already a challenge, but singing in a foreign language presented even more obstacles.

But one thing is certain: It was all worth it for Wilson, who loves working with his students.

“We had to work twice as hard to go to a festival, and it was wonderful when one judge said to us, ‘Your vowels were wonderful,’” Wilson said. “That’s a great compliment to singers. We have a challenge of learning the piece and then singing in a foreign language and working on the vowels, the consonants in a foreign language, and we try to be very authentic. I study a lot and read a lot and solicit anything I can to make my kids better. That’s my goal as a teacher and educator.”

Practice also cultivates more than perfection. His students know that.

“It’s an honor to be in this group,” senior Carissa Funk said. “He always says practice make permanent, which is very true. He’s very much like a father to us. He’s always there when we need him.”

Although his groups were recognized with the highest ratings and walked away with more trophies to decorate their classroom, Wilson said the greatest testament to the work of his students comes in the form of compliments. And up against some very large high schools at that.

“The greatest compliment that was said to me was, ‘Your students were so professional acting,’” Wilson said. “That’s a real compliment to those kids. They are high school kids who like to have fun, but when they take that stage, they know what the job at hand is. I always tell them, ‘Let the singing speak for you and then everything else will follow.’”

It’s a message that continues to resonate with his students, especially the ones who are preparing for their last concert at EFHS.

“We are a very high awarded group,” Funk said. “We are all a family. We love each and every person. We’re taught a lot of things, respect especially. I can graduate this school and know that I’m going to look back on this group and just go back to how I’ve grown up to be.”

Their spring concert will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17, at East Fairmont High School. Tickets are $5 per person and can be purchased at the door.

Email Nicole Lemal at

Text Only
  • ‘Swan Lake’ presentation April 27

    The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will leave its home at the Benedum Center to take the stage at West Virginia University’s Creative Arts Center next weekend.
    The ballet will perform its production of “Swan Lake” Sunday, April 27, at 3 p.m.

    April 17, 2014

  • ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with a difference

    Every year, faculty at Fairmont State University’s theater department plan their performances based on students’ experience.
    “The students that we have right now, we have not done a play by Shakespeare since they’ve been in school,” said Dr. Francene Kirk, professor of communication and fine arts, and the play’s director.

    April 10, 2014

  • Victorian Magic-Lantern Show set Saturday at Morgantown’s Metropolitan Theater

    Audience members will have what has been described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel back in time during the Victorian Magic-Lantern Show Saturday at the Metropolitan Theater in Morgantown.
    The Children’s Discovery Museum is hosting the event. Julie Bryan, the museum’s director, saw a similar production while living in Frederick, Md.

    April 3, 2014

  • Historic Dance -ts.jpg Mountaineer State History Expo Saturday at courthouse

    The Marion County Historical Society will hold its annual Mountaineer State History Expo Saturday.

    March 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • 032014.jpg Sagebrush Round-Up offers night of family music

    The Sagebrush Round-Up will open its doors for another Saturday night of music for the whole family this weekend.

    March 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Beetles Rain.jpg ‘Rain — A Tribute to Beatles’ set Monday

    Who hasn’t dreamed of seeing The Beatles in concert?

    March 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Three acts featured in family-friendly show scheduled March 15-16

    Morgantown Dance and Morgantown Ballet Company will present “The Magical Carnival of Dance” at the Metropolitan Theatre in Morgantown next weekend.
    The family-friendly show will feature three acts: “The Carnival of Animals,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Premieres!”

    March 6, 2014

  • Leslie's change 022714.jpg ‘It’s fun and it’s cheap’

    The Monongalia Arts Center in Morgantown will open its 2014 season with the comedy “Love, Sex and the IRS” Friday.

    February 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Have a heart and help child advocacy

    The Marion County Child Advocacy Center is holding its inaugural Have a Heart Benefit Dance and Dinner on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Fairmont State University Ballroom.

    February 6, 2014

  • Dylan Duvall 3.3MB.jpg ‘Honey Dewdrops’ coming to Kingwood

    The musical roots duo of Laura Wortman and Kagey Parish will bring their blend of folk, acoustic, old-feel Americana and bluegrass music to the Preston Community Arts Center in Kingwood on Feb. 8, at 8 p.m.

    January 30, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
NDN Lifestyles
House Ads