Rehearsals start next Monday
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Conrad Weber, who directed the choirs at Escambia County Middle School and Escambia County High School for more than 10 years, is now in the process of putting into play an idea he has had for about that length of time.
Weber, whose ECHS senior choir earned an appearance at famed Carnegie Hall as part of a nationwide mass choir, is currently trying to put together a youth choir that represents the entire area instead of just one or two schools.
“This is an idea that’s been floating around for at least 10 years,” Weber said. “We are in an area where there aren’t many school choral programs, not a lot of opportunities for young people who are more interested in the arts.”
He said he and co-director Ryan Dean will attempt to bring the voices of as many area students in grades 7-12 as possible and see if they can’t make something special of the collaboration.
“One of the things that has always been of interest to me, is to be able to find those students in all the different area schools — and those who are homeschooled — who have an interest in music and choir and try to pull them together,” said Weber, who moved away last fall after 13 years of work with the local chorales. “I knew there was a lot of talent in the area, and I also knew there was talent at the other schools, all around the community, that did not have choral programs.”
That talent pool is one of the main reasons he decided to try and put the concept into action.
“It has always been a dream of mine; no matter what I did, I always wondered what would happen if we could find these little pockets of kids interested in the arts, from all different schools, and try to pull them together.”
He held discussions with Alex Gardner, who directs Pensacola Children’s Chorus, and Gardner obtained permission for Weber and Dean to operate their new plan under PCC’s nonprofit umbrella.
“They are allowing us to serve as an outreach program under their 501(c)3 for marketing, public relations, payment systems and such,” Weber said. “They’re helping get us off the ground. It’s a tremendous opportunity; being under their umbrella allows us to just promote it and get started with rehearsals.”
He added that he and Dean are trying to develop their own support base and noted that they hoped to include students from younger grades in the future.
“It’s open to anyone who wants to dive in,” he said of the choir. “It operates in 8-to-10-week segments, with one this semester. Rehearsals will start October 3. from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Mondays.
The rehearsals will be held at Grace Fellowship Church until the Strand Theatre renovation is completed, then will be based there. The group’s first concert is planned for December 12.
“The thing we want to really get across to people is, if we can find the students who are interested in this and committed to working together, there is tremendous potential for this to be something extremely significant for the students, as well as a big source of pride for the community.”
Both co-directors are hoping their leap of faith will bear fruit.
“Ryan and I are both excited,” he said. “It’s sort of a step of faith for us to see if we can get it up and running.”
For more information, including cost of participation, visit www.atmoreyouthchoir.org.