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An opportunity to shine – and sing

Since 1937 the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus has been gracing the ears of the general public. Featuring music ranging from classics to pop, the group highlights a level of talented and accomplished vocalists. In its next performance, the group is working in tandem with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Ode to Joy.” The BPC offers roughly 15 performances each year, frequently in union with the BPO, whenever a choir is needed, as dictated by a musical piece.

As a nonprofit organization, the BPC’s goal is to bring the magic of music into the community. The BPC seeks to educate and expand musical understanding within the minds of all who are willing to learn. This objective goes beyond simply putting on great performances. Besides bringing music to the crowd, the group also brings the crowd to the music. As a way to develop and spread the love of music, the choral group opens its doors to high school students. Every year at this time, approximately 30 students are chosen via teacher recommendations to practice and eventually perform with members of the BPC. Rehearsal is a weekly affair, and students make gradual improvements. Students ready to learn are given the opportunity to sharpen their talents through this eye-opening, life-enriching program.

Each participating student is assigned an official member of the BPC as a mentor. Mentors not only provide insights and advice on improving skills, they demonstrate professionalism and dedication.

Diana Mercurio, program mentor, accomplished professional vocalist and alto section leader, stresses how beneficial such a platform can be.

“It is a great way for the students to get a chance to work with a professional orchestra and chorus,” she said.

Everyone works together for a common goal, to hone both skill level and performance showings.

Kayla Murphy, the first student representing St. Mary’s High School of Lancaster, said, “How a professional vocal artist goes about practicing and perfecting one’s craft is very important to my future.”

All selected program participants get a taste of what it’s like to be a part of such a premier group.

Coming from a distance

The BPC’s student affiliate program draws from all over Western New York. Many students vie for participation, and entry is competitive. Some students come from great distances in order to learn from the musically advanced BPC members. Eight schools are represented within the choral selection group, and a number of students travel an hour or more (one way) to take part. These schools include Barker, Forestville and Royalton-Hartland high schools.

Josh Ellis, a Forestville student and affiliate program member said, “This has been a great opportunity for me and working with my mentor has been a good experience. He made me feel comfortable in a strange and new environment and was willing to help me with whatever I needed.”

Teachers agree.

“As a firm believer in the educational philosophy that all students learn best by doing, I know that when a student has any opportunity that addresses their main area of interest, where they can work closely with adults from the private sector, the experience will develop not only that student’s ability but his/her character, presentation and confidence in his/herself,” said Amy Gier, a music teacher at Forestville Central Schools.

Sarah Pleva, another Forestville representative, said, “The experience to sing with the BPC was very different for me, but amazing. This is something I could never forget. I’m so glad I had this opportunity before I graduate.”

A great segue

The BPC also offers affiliates a number of other prospects.

As Mercurio, one of the mentors, said, “We’ve had students from our affiliate program become members of the chorus, when they were old enough to audition and become members.”

Students have the ability to make an impression on BPC members, and with that the possibility of turning the experience into an opportunity in the future.

“It’s an incredible feeling, performing with a professional orchestra, and it’s great that they are able to be a part of it,” Mercurio said.

She has taken several students under her wing in recent years and looks forward to introducing more to the program.

Get involved

There are several ways to participate. Whether you have a penchant for music or simply enjoy taking in a performance, you can be a part of it. Scheduled performance dates, along with ticket reservations, can be found at bpchorus.org or tickets.bpo.org.

To join the Buffalo Philharmonic Choir, request an audition from the BPC’s online membership page. Audition opportunities are held every January by appointment. Additional information can be requested by contacting the Chorus Manager, Ryan Kaminski, at ChorusManager@BPChorus.org or by calling 980-5701.

The performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the BPC High School Choral Affiliates will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle.

Landin Murphy is a senior at St. Mary’s High School.