Grand Island Senior High Auditorium was filled Saturday with the sound of nearly 160 fourth through sixth graders as Sing Around Nebraska made a stop in Grand Island.

Sing Around Nebraska are daylong choir workshops for students held in several locations across the state. The Grand Island site hosted students from Grand Island Public Schools, Northwest Public Schools, Holdrege, Fairfield, Seward, Giltner and Wood River.

The multi-location event is put on by the Nebraska Choral Directors Association. Throughout January and February students who are selected by their teachers can participate in their area’s Sing Around Nebraska choir.

James Holys, who teaches music at Wasmer and Seedling Mile elementaries, was the 2022 Grand Island site co-chair. Clark Roush, award-winning conductor and director of York College’s music department, was the guest clinician.

Roush said Sing Across Nebraska is a unique opportunity for students.
“To get some of them in there for a day like that, it’s not like they’re with all of their elementary mates,” he said. “They are in a room full of people that love music as much as they do. That doesn’t often happen in our life, where we could surround ourselves with other people who are equally passionate about something that we really, really care about.”

By the time Sing Around Nebraska choir members get to meet Roush at their rehearsal space, they already know the songs well. “The work [music teachers] do to make this happen is just stunning. All I’ve had to do is learn the music and just show up,” Roush said.

This year the songs were “The Fox,” “Firefly,” “Setting of the Benedictus,” “Inscription of Hope” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Lifting the students’ voices is what Sing Around Nebraska is about, Holys said. “It’s going to be a great life-changing experience. Really an awesome thing. It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it.”

Roush said the students of Sing Around Nebraska’s age group are in a formative stage of developing as musicians.
“I think it’s a real positive thing,” Roush said. “That age is about the time where a lot of males are thinking maybe the singing thing really isn’t for me, or maybe it’s not manly.”

“At the end of the day, I’m absolutely exhausted,” Roush admitted. He has been guest conductor for Sing Around Nebraska before. “It’s just so fulfilling. I’m so grateful – so humble – at the response to the art and how kind the teachers, parents and kids are.”

Following a full day of rehearsal, the students’ – and teachers’ – hard work culminated in a public performance late Saturday afternoon, nearly 160 young voices rising toward the GISH rafters.

Original article written by Jessica Votipka at The Grand Island Independent.