UTA A Cappella Choir to Sing for TMEA

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Four years of hard work and recruiting has paid off for the UT Arlington A Cappella Choir.

The UTA choir beat out 17 applicants to perform Feb. 13 at the Texas Music Educator’s Association state convention in San Antonio. The 42-member choir will perform in front of nearly 1,000 high school choir directors from across the state. Baylor University will also perform.

“This is one of the biggest honors you can receive in educational choral music,” said Associate Professor Karen Kenaston-French. “The Texas Music Educator’s Association convention is very highly regarded around the country. It’s a huge honor.”

Kenaston-French, who directs the A Cappella Choir and serves as director of choral activities for the Department of Music, said she began submitting UTA’s audition tapes four years ago. During that time, she watched students improve and the level of incoming talent increase.

“Since I joined UT Arlington in 2009, we’ve increased the number of students and the talent level of voice majors we accept,” she said. “We have become more selective with who we’ve let into the program. There’s no automatic admission; you still have to work to get to be in A Cappella Choir. That attitude has created stronger classes of new voice majors coming in.”

The choir has been working hard since the school year began. Kenaston-French selected two challenging compositions that will serve as tent poles in the group’s 50-minute concert: “Bar Xizam (Upward I Rise)” by Abbie Betinis, a song based on ancient Persian text from the poet Hafez, and “Beatus Vir” by Monteverdi, a Baroque piece that includes text in Latin from Psalm 112 and features a small faculty chamber ensemble. Music faculty members Martha Wolvoord, John Burton, Jack Unzicker and Linton Powell are scheduled to perform with the group.

Kenaston-French said she has been impressed with the work ethic her students have shown. In addition to learning the music, students worked with Department of Linguistics and TESOL doctoral student Ehsan Shafiee to master pronunciations for the words to “Bar Xizam.”

Since most of the vocal program’s recruiting comes from Texas high school choral programs, Kenaston-French is excited about making a good impression on the directors attending this year’s TMEA conference.

“This is the single best thing I can do for recruiting and it will carry forward for several years,” she said.

Before the TMEA show, the A Cappella Choir will perform twice in the DFW area: Sunday, Jan. 26, 7 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, and Monday, Feb. 10, noon, at Irons Recital Hall on the UTA campus. Both shows are free and open to the general public.

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