Hundreds of students walk in and out of the Jo Ann Hawkins Music Building daily. From private music lessons to master courses, the Shelby and Fern Collinsworth School of Music, at California Baptist University, is a busy place.
As a requirement of being in the music program, students are required to participate with one of the many performing groups.
There are four main choirs within the music program. They are the University Choir and Orchestra (UCO), directed by the Dean of Music Gary “Doc” Bonner; Male Chorale, directed by the Assistant Dean of Music Judd Bonner; Women’s Choir, directed by Philip Miller; and New Song Women’s Choir, directed by Marisa Giorgetti.
Along with these larger choirs, there are five small groups, comprised of eight to ten members. Junior music education major Ashley Bray said “the small groups reach out into the community with concerts on a weekly basis.”
“We are able to portray the school in a different way that reaches others who might not have heard of the school or the program before,” Bray said.
“I’m glad that we have this unbelievable opportunity to minister or perform. The fact that you kids love it says something, that you allow me to pressure you to be excellent. It’s hard to put words to the measurement of impact we have on the community,” Gary Bonner said.
All the choirs have a piano, drum set and bass guitar to accompany them. In addition, UCO is equipped with a full orchestra, including percussion, brass and strings instruments, and Male Chorale has a full brass set.
“Male Chorale is more groovy and showy, while UCO has more of an epic repertoire. Both groups are incredible to watch in rehearsal and concerts. I’ve loved being able to sing with Male Chorale last year and then UCO this year,” sophomore pre-nursing major Eugene Brown said.
According to Gary Bonner, there is no real difference between Women’s Choir and New Song. The reason there are two women choirs is because of the number of participants in the music program. Both groups provide an opportunity for women to sing, form a sisterhood and minister to the people. Women’s Choir has 95 women and one male drummer; New Song has about 95 women and three male instrumentalists; Male Chorale has 90 men; and UCO consists of about 150 singers and musicians.
All the ensembles travel to various locations throughout Southern Calif. and other states on their Spring tour. Usually a Sunday will consist of a bus ride to a church, a concert and then a bus ride back to campus. There is a group in each of the choirs whose main job is to set up and tear down the equipment needed for concerts.
“Before the set-up crew leaves to get the church ready, they load the truck with all the equipment and then send a van about an hour and a half before the rest of the choir and the small crew of set up all of the equipment and the risers for the choir and seats for the orchestra,” Joshua Atkinson, a junior liberal studies major, said. “There is a specific crew for tear down, where guys take down the speakers and risers and the girls wrap the chords and there is a crew that gets all the equipment put in the truck and they take it back to school and unload it into a room by the UCO room.”
Like Gary Bonner said, it is too difficult to put into words what kind of experience a person can have from seeing one of the ensembles perform. They are nothing less than excellent in every- thing that they do, from the way they dress to the way they make the songs come alive.
“It’s a wonderful place for both students and observers to worship our Lord. It’s not about music, its about worshiping God with our hearts through the music,” business administration major Nicole Lee said.