Choir Students Get Lessons From a Pro

It was with relatable experience and humor that Donald Brinegar, a renowned vocalist and choral director, helped middle school choir students hone their craft last week.
Brinegar, professor emeritus at Pasadena City College, spent time with each of the four choir groups that participated in the recent Fall Choir Festival at Huntington Middle School. The groups performed their set of songs and then learned from Brinegar’s critiques.
“It’s really remarkable to not only see the discipline, but the intelligent thinking coming out of this age group,” Brinegar said. “They are really responsive and take direction well.”
Choirs from Ramona Middle School in La Verne, Lone Hill Middle School in San Dimas and Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica joined HMS. Huntington Middle’s choir students not only performed, but were responsible for registering visiting students.
“They’re learning not just the musical aspect, but also the organizational aspect,” said Derek Jamieson, director of HMS’ choir.
Jamieson explained that most choirs practice in preparation for spring and sometimes winter concerts, but this fall performance provided an extra non-competitive opportunity for students to test their skills while still learning. His students performed “El Grillo” by Josquin des Prez, “Wayfarin’ Stranger” by Linda Spevacek and “Ah! Si Mon Moine Voulet Danser” by Donald Patriquin.
“The whole idea is to give the kids a learning opportunity but with higher stakes than just rehearsing in class,” Jamieson explained. “They all have robust programs. They’re in the top performing groups.”
Vahini Garimella, an HMS 8th-grader, said she enjoyed the change in routine for this event.
“I like the experience and that we got to learn from a different person, a different style of director,” she said.
Eighth-grader Glover Talt said he appreciated learning about enunciating at key points and tightening up vocal technique from Brineger.
“He was a lot of fun,” Talt said. “I feel like we were performing very well, even great, but I think he’ll make us even better with his insight. We’re only going to get better from here.”
For Brinegar, serving as adjudicator for the festival had a personal connection for him. As a middle school student, he performed in the very same Kenneth White Auditorium at HMS.
“This brought back some memories,” he said cheerfully.

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