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Santa Clarita high schools sing for scholarships


Posted: July 27, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 27, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Christine Tavares-Mocha, left, director of Valencia High School's Chamber Choir, receives first-place trophies from Pat Kahmann, chairwoman of the 10th annual A Cappella Scholarship Festival hosted by the Verdugo Hills Showtime Chorus on May 17 at Glendale High School. Joyce Rudolph/Courtesy photo

Two Santa Clarita high school choirs brought home thousands of dollars in prizes after competing in the 10th annual A Cappella Scholarship Festival on May 17 at Glendale High School.

The event was hosted by the Verdugo Hills Showtime Chorus, which is affiliated with Sweet Adelines International, a group that sings four-part harmony for competition and performance.

Four middle schools and nine high schools from around Los Angeles were judged on singing without musical instrument accompaniment.

Valencia High School’s Valencia Chamber, directed by Christine Tavares-Mocha, took first place in the high school category and received $5,000.

“That’s great prize money for a public high school choir,” she said. “What was more of a shock was the kids scored a perfect 100 from all three judges. That is rare and I couldn’t be prouder of them!”

Valencia will use a portion of the prize for travel and music expenses when students go to the Monterey Jazz Festival Sept. 19 through 21.

Valencia is one of two schools in the nation that will open for Herbie Hancock at the festival. In addition, the school will fund senior scholarships and pay off outstanding debts, Tavares-Mocha said.

“We now are back in the black. We are extremely thankful [for] this donation/prize money as it will help our program greatly,” she said.

Winning was a complete surprise, she added, because it was the first time the school attended the competition. The director combined two of the high school’s jazz ensembles to create a chamber choir.

“The best thing about winning first place this year was knowing it couldn’t have happened to a better group of kids,” she said. “The students are great performers, but they truly are the best all-around people with the most beautiful hearts.”

Canyon High School’s Madrigals, conducted by Mary Purdy, received fourth place and $2,500.

The prize money will go toward helping some students attend the choir banquet that costs $27 per person, Purdy said.

Attending this festival is more about allowing the choir students to hear great music done very well, Purdy said. She doesn’t want her students to think the choir is about competition.

“I think that everyone who is in choir is a winner already,” she said. “I love for my kids to hear the groups that are brought in – like the Alley Cats last year – and the Sweet Adelines chorus that sponsors the event. Anytime that my students can perform in a high quality festival, they grow as musicians.”

The festival is a learning experience for students, said Tammy Ragsdale, director of the Verdugo Hills Showtime Chorus.

“Performing at the festival gives the students a chance to be heard and seen by their peers, and they also get an idea of what it is to work together,” she said.

Following the student choir performances, the Verdugo Hills Showtime Chorus showed them their competition set.

“The feedback I just got from several of the schools is how much they loved watching Verdugo Hills Showtime Chorus,” Ragsdale said. “They see what’s possible, and I think that’s real awesome because they are at an age now where they believe everything is possible, which is fun.”

The $50,000 to put on the festival was donated by the John C. Hench Foundation.

Hench worked at The Walt Disney Studios for more than 65 years. His contributions spanned from many facets of animation to theme park creation with Disney Imagineering, said Festival chairwoman Pat Kahmann.

Judging the competition were: Kenneth Neufeld, an award-winning composer/arranger; Julie Ramsey, a conductor of church and community choirs; and Richard W. Reed, a singer, music director and educator who has taught kindergarten through college as well as community groups.

Helping Kahmann on the festival committee were Debi Bitterolf, Sandy Huskins, Patti Loitz and Jan Steese.

Verdugo Hills Showtime Chorus was organized in 1954. The female singers meet regularly to practice, perform and socialize. The group’s 50 members are all ages and live in the San Gabriel Valley and the greater Los Angeles area.


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