A winning tradition: East Rowan Honors Chorus performs benefit concert May 31
By Susan Shinn
The tradition of excellence continues this spring at East Rowan High School with its award-winning Honors Chorus.
For the fourth year in a row, the chorus was named grand champion choir in national competition. The contest in Virginia Beach, Va., featured 24 choirs from 10 different states.
Locally, the 60-voice choir ó which is open by audition only ó performs about four dozen times a year, mostly at churches.
If you haven’t had a chance to hear the Honors Chorus, they will be performing a benefit concert May 31 at Dunn Mountain Baptist Church. The event begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 each, and proceeds benefit Nazareth Children’s Home and Blue Ridge Special Needs Animal Sanctuary.
This concert marks a bit of a departure for the choir, according to director Dean Orbison. The choir will be performing more gospel music, and singing with the One Faith Trio. This group is comprised of Orbison, Megan Riddle and Justin Hall.
Riddle teaches music at Morgan and Bostian elementary schools and Hall is a 2006 Honors Chorus alumnus who will attend Catawba College this fall.
“These students have a heart for music and a heart for the Lord,” Hall says. “I loved every minute of it and I miss it to this day. It helped me grow as a musician and a Christian.”
Now, Hall appreciates the friendship he has forged with Orbison and Riddle.
The fundraiser is an extra commitment for the students, Orbison admits, but they jumped at the chance to sing with the trio.
“We wanted to do a benefit concert,” Orbison says. Since many Nazareth students study at East Rowan, singing for the children’s home “was a natural for us.”
But then students in the Honors Chorus don’t easily shy away from commitment.
Students must sign a contract with Orbison, agreeing to sing both semesters and attend 95 percent of the concerts.
There were 12 slots available for the chorus this year. Sixty students auditioned.
“I understand that unless they’re pushed, students don’t excel to the very best they can be,” Orbison says. “I enjoy pushing. I understand what they can accomplish. Most kids will not go to their limits unless they’re encouraged.”
That the choir is consistently terrific every year is a credit to Orbison.
This year, he’s graduating only nine seniors. Typically, he says, he loses 60 percent of his choir, so he basically starts over each year.
“It’s a huge challenge,” he says.
He notes that there’s no stereotypical chorus student. He has football players and cheerleaders and honors students, as well as those who are solely involved in chorus.
Since the chorus performs at so many churches, they have a full repertoire of sacred music. But they also learn music for the annual Broadway review and Christmas songs for holiday concerts.
“It’s varied what they get exposed to,” Orbison says.
There are 540 tickets available for the May 31 concert. Orbison says about half of those are already sold, so it’s time to get your tickets if you haven’t already.
“This will be where you need to be,” he says.
For more information about the East Rowan Honors Chorus benefit concert, call Dean Orbison at 704-279-5232, ext. 135 or 704-433-8015.