Two Music Ensembles to Perform at State Convention

Under the direction of longtime music educators Dr. Jim Hansford and Conchita Hansford, the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra and the Shawnee Honor Choir have been invited to perform at the 70th annual Oklahoma Music Educators Association Convention in Tulsa on Friday, Jan. 20. The Oklahoma Music Educators Association (OMEA) is a state affiliate of the National Association for Music Education.

Dr. Jim Hansford, recently retired Patterson Professor of Music at OBU, directs the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra. Conchita Hansford, assistant professor of music at OBU and director of the OBU Preparatory Department, directs the Shawnee Honor Choir.

Dr. Jim Hansford Conchita Hansford

The OMEA annual music convention is designed for all levels of music educators, ranging from elementary music teachers to university music professors from across the state. The convention draws a host of educators, distinguished conductors, student performers, workshop presenters, music industry exhibitors and nationally recognized speakers and lecturers to participate in the four-day event. The event also serves as a massive in-service workshop for music educators.

A highlight of the conference is the opportunity to hear a variety of honor ensembles from schools and colleges that were selected through an audition process. Performers will include elementary, junior high and senior high, and college choirs, bands and orchestras.

In recent years, a new performance venue was created for community groups, which must submit audition recordings. Jim Hansford said the audition process is very competitive, and is it considered an honor to be selected. Interested directors submit recordings in June. A panel of judges adjudicates the auditions anonymously, making decisions on which ensembles will be invited. Ensemble conductors of selected groups are notified in September. Each group is then expected to present a program about 30 minutes long to be performed in one of several concert venues including the Tulsa Convention Center, Holy Family Cathedral and the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.

“This will be the first off-campus concert for the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra since its inception 11 years ago,” Dr. Hansford said. “We normally perform on the OBU campus in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium. Since the orchestra is a collaborative group including musicians from the community, it is not a traveling/touring ensemble like most of the OBU music ensembles.”

The orchestra was organized in the fall of 2001 to provide unique performance collaboration between amateur and professional musicians in the Greater Shawnee area by presenting quality performances of orchestral literature. The group also was designed to serve as a laboratory for music majors and other music students at OBU. Initially the orchestra was made possible with the assistance of a grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation in Oklahoma City. The grant became a reality through the work of Dr. Paul Hammond, former dean of OBU’s Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts and provided for a graduate string quartet that was in joint residence at OBU and the University of Oklahoma. The four graduate string players served as principals in the orchestra. After the grant funding subsided, the orchestra relied on many generous donors from the Shawnee community and private sector for the vital support needed to thrive and excel. In addition to providing substantial financial support, OBU provides rehearsal space, equipment and a concert hall, and allows use of the music school’s percussion instruments.

Through the years, membership in the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra has ranged from 45 to 55 musicians, with approximately 50 percent of its members being from the community and the remainder being OBU students, alumni, staff and faculty. The roster has included community, amateur and professional musicians from nearby Oklahoma communities including Ada, Dale, Chandler, Choctaw, Edmond, Harrah, Meeker, Norman, Okmulgee, Oklahoma City, Tecumseh and Yukon.

The program for the orchestra will include “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland, “The Banks of Green Willow” by George Butterworth, and the first movement from “Symphony No. 9 in E minor (from The New World)” by Antonin Dvorak.

This year marks the sixth invitation for the Shawnee Honor Choir to perform at the OMEA convention. Two elementary choirs are chosen statewide to perform. A panel of judges listens anonymously to submitted recordings and ranks the auditions according to artistic merit. The judges base their decision on the general musical artistry of the group including such things as beauty of tone and tuning, quality of repertoire, artistic singing, beauty of expression, technical accuracy and diction.

Shawnee Honor Choir is an auditioned choir of 53 third- through seventh-grade students representing 17 schools in Shawnee and the surrounding area. The choir is part of the Young Singers of Central Oklahoma, the preparatory choirs of OBU. The group performs in 12 schools annually, presents four formal public concerts each year and frequently performs at community events.

“Being chosen to perform at the state music educators convention is truly an honor for our students,” Conchita Hansford said. “The children must demonstrate a tremendous work ethic and a high degree of self-discipline in order to achieve the level of accomplishment required to be selected for this musical distinction. I count it a privilege having the opportunity to direct such an outstanding group of young children. We are excited to present our music to the teachers of Oklahoma.

The Shawnee Honor Choir program will include “Clap Your Hands, Rejoice!” by Andy Beck; “When I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” James Quitman Mulholland; “Child of Peace,” by David Waggoner; “J’entends le Moulin,” a French Canadian folk song arranged by Emily Crocker; and “Dance, Love, Sing, Live!” by Greg Gilpin. Additional selections include “Child’s Play” by Marie Stultz and “Play for Me a Simple Melody” by Irving Berlin and arranged by Kirby Shaw.

The choir will be joined by OBU music majors Thomas Whitmore on percussion, Chelsea McQuigg on flute, and Ashlyn Streck on shakers for the song “Dance, Love, Sing, Live!”

Schools represented by the choir include Bethel Elementary, Cross Timbers Elementary, Grove School, home school, Liberty Academy, McLoud Elementary, Meeker Elementary, New Lima Middle School, North Rock Creek, Prague Elementary, Prague Middle School, Sequoyah Elementary, Seminole North Wood Elementary, Shawnee Middle School, South Rock Creek, Strother Middle School and Will Rogers Elementary.

“It is my basic philosophy that every child needs to learn to sing because it is a lifelong experience with a lifetime of benefits -– a wonderful way to bring beauty as well as music into our lives,” Conchita Hansford said.

The Shawnee Honor Choir has positions available for the spring 2012 semester. Parents of interested students can contact Conchita Hansford at (405) 878-2319 for more information.

The orchestra will perform on Friday, Jan. 20, at 4:30 p.m. in the Tulsa Convention Center, Assembly Hall. The Shawnee Honor Choir will perform Friday at 7 p.m. in Holy Family Cathedral. There is no charge for the orchestra concert. The admission charge for the Honor Choir performance is $5.