PLNU Hosts 15th Annual Invitational Choir Festival for High School Choirs

Eight hours of singing, 15 choirs and a variety of genres of music brought a thriving music community onto Point Loma Nazarene University’s campus on Oct. 27. The university hosted choirs from around Southern California to perform for each other and clinician for the festival, Christopher Peterson, who teaches music at Cal State Fullerton, is the director of the university’s concert choir and the vice president of the California Choral Directors Association. 

Fatima Capacate, a senior at Jurupa Valley High School in Riverside, attended the festival with her choir and enjoyed meeting new people and learning about music. 

“We’re basically just here to have fun, have a new experience [and] get opportunities,” Capacate said. “It’s something that I always wanted to pursue and it’s something my older sister did so I wanted to follow her path.”

Capacate said that her favorite piece to perform with her choir is “Dies Irae” which her director’s mother, Ruth Morris Grey, arranged. 

Professor Dan Jackson, the chair of PLNU’s music department and choir conductor, said that this festival serves the community of high school choirs uniquely. 

“There are no festivals like this in the San Diego area and it’s a service to the community of schools. I feel as an educator, it’s my job to not only bring education to the students here but also make it possible for high school teachers and their students to also grow as musicians,” Jackson said.

According to Jackson, Dr. Peterson worked with the high school choirs in what is called a “master class” where all the high schools observe the critiques and get to learn from each other. 

“He gives them ideas to make their tone, their intonation and their musicality better. I’ve been doing this for 44 years, and I learned a couple things that I’m going to use during the sessions,” Jackson said.

After the high school choirs performed and workshopped with the clinician, the PLNU Concert Choir sang for them. According to Jackson, this performance was the first of the year for the students.

“I’m still just like on a high from how good they sounded,” Jackson said. “It makes you proud as a teacher, a professor and a conductor when the students rise to a challenge. They did some of the most difficult music we’ve ever done and they did it beautifully.”

Matthew Barnes, a fourth-year business administration major who sings bass in the concert choir, said that the energy and vibe that this first performance had was strong. 

“We went out there with an energy that was pretty evident. We killed it,” Barnes said. 

Barnes said that his parents met while singing in a concert choir, so he has been part of the choir culture for a very long time and enjoys the relationships he’s made. 

“Honestly, the relationships are what make the choir the choir,” Barnes said. “There’s not much room to be an outcast. You’ll get to know people through these experiences and performing with them, that’s a bond that you don’t really get with anyone else, in any other study either.” 

Sierra Hill, a fourth-year music education major, sings alto in concert choir and also worked at the festival. She said she sat next to the clinician while he worked with the choirs, handed him the music and kept time for him. 

“I want to be a choir teacher when I’m done with college, so seeing all these high school directors work with him to get their choirs to sound better was super cool to watch,” Hill said. “I think my biggest takeaway as a potential future music educator is that those music festivals are a great opportunity for me as a teacher to learn, not just for my students to go there and work with a clinician, but I actually think it is mainly about the music educators at those festivals learning from each other, rather than the kids, which I think is pretty cool.” 

The next big event the PLNU Concert Choir is preparing for is the Cider Celebration on Dec. 1 and 2, where Christmas characters and the choir will participate in a show with choral music, skits and holiday cheer. According to Jackson, the Concert Choir will also be touring in Hawaii over spring break for 10 days and singing in all the Nazarene churches around O’ahu and other prestigious schools on the island.