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Morristown choral students visited by professional musicians

Members of the Indianapolis Opera Resident Artists gather for a group photo with the Morristown High School choral department after talking about their experiences in the industry and giving demonstrations.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

Forty-one Morristown High School choral students were treated last week when a group of professional musicians visited for an in-class session that gave students tips from proper breathing to how to learn operatic songs in a foreign language.

The Indianapolis Opera Resident Artists visited the school to present a workshop called “Singing for Success” that included all three musicians singing two songs. In between the songs, each singer told students about the experiences they’ve had in the industry and the techniques they use.

Choir Director Cindy Leahy said she hoped her students found a “new appreciation for music they didn’t understand.”

She went onto explain that listening to music on YouTube is a far different experience than hearing it in person.

During the demonstration, students didn’t understand the lyrics that were being sung because they were in another language. But the expressiveness delivered by the musicians – from sadness to anger to ecstasy – allowed them to follow along, she said.

“Opera is really theater and they’re portraying characters not just by music but visibly,” she said. “Even though they had no idea what the words meant, they could follow through her physical attributes. That was a good thing for the kids to see.”

Morristown had 29 entrees into last month’s Indiana State Music Association Solo and Ensemble, and most of them were soloists, she said.

“For them to see similar songs and how they should be performed, it caught them through a whole new realization,” she said. “That was an eye-opener for them.”

The school’s participation in the program was made possible through a grant from the Blue River Community Foundation. The foundation has brought the opera company to Shelbyville High School in the past and invited the other county schools to attend.

But because of logistics, it hasn’t always been possible for county schools to attend, Leahy said. And after a conversation with Lynne Ensminger, the program director at the Foundation, the local organization decided to provide funding to take the program to other schools, starting with Morristown.

“Singing For Success” is one of several education programs provided by the Indianapolis Opera. The workshop is meant to reinforce good singing habits while giving some insight into the steps those professional musicians took.