Honor Choir Dazzled by a Stimulating Opportunity with Dr. Barnum

Mifuyu H. ('21)

“One time, he dropped his music sheet from the stand as he flipped the pages too aggressively, and another time, he stumbled off the podium because he was gesticulating his arms along with the music too much,” Yurino K. (10) reminisced a comical episode where his intense love and enthusiasm towards music was shown. “During the rehearsals, every move, every expression he made, reassured me that he truly wanted to make this year’s Kanto Plain Honor Choir a success,” Yurino continued. This passionate man is Dr. Eric Barnum, a choral director and composer at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and this school year's guest conductor for Honor Choir. Honor Choir is a group that many high school students who are fervent in music yearn to be in, as they have the opportunity of being conducted by an internationally renowned conductor. Only a handful of singers from each of the Kanto Plains schools are selected annually through a long audition process, where students are required to sing choir repertoire with a high level of expertise in pitch, tone accuracy, range of voice, and breath support.

Dr. Barnum adopted a unique approach to conduct the singers, which has greatly benefitted them. Sahana N. (11) claimed, “We singers often neglect the fundamentals of singing. Dr. Barnum encourages us to begin our sessions by enhancing the building blocks of singing, which has benefited me in becoming a better singer.” Through this new type of warm up, they were able to learn new techniques, such as maintaining the best posture for voice projection, strong breath support, and tall open vowels. Lynne M. (11) further explained, “His advice on, for instance, creating ‘fuller’ or less breathy sounds by only using our posture and hands changed the sound of the entire choir.” In addition, Fumi N. (10) expressed, “Many of his song choices were songs that differed from many of the conductors I knew, as he exposed us to various cultures by challenging us to sing songs in Latin, Swedish, English, and German. Though singing in unaccustomed languages was a hardship, this has made me a better singer.” Dr. Eric Barnum’s involvement in the Honor Choir has helped Seisen students to grow as singers and to continue dazzling the audience.

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