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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Mar. 2, 2022 4 months ago

Chorus of the Keys leads student outreach outing

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Chorus of the Keys brought a secret weapon, barbershop quartet Vocal Spectrum, to entertain area students last week.
by: Spencer Fordin A+E Editor

How do you hold the attention of a room full of teenagers for an hour? You introduce them to the power of song.

The Sarasota Chorus of the Keys embarked on a mission to reach area youths last week, when they made three school visits in advance of their 72nd annual show. The group visited State College of Florida, Riverview High School and Venice High School with special guests Vocal Spectrum, the 2006 international quartet champions.

Robert Jette, a member of Chorus of the Keys and barbershop quartet 4 Guys No Fries, served as master of ceremonies, introducing Vocal Spectrum to the students. Jette said that when he was their age, he learned about barbershop quartet from his school’s choral director. That was also when he learned about Vocal Spectrum, thanks to a school friend.

“One of my friends who I sang with walked into school … with an iPod with a barbershop CD on it,” he said. “He said, ‘Dude, you’ve got to listen to this.’ I put his headphones in and listened to this song, and by the end of it I was amazed. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Jette, without further ado, introduced Vocal Spectrum, who have been singing together for 20-plus years.

The group did an a cappella version of “Go The Distance” from Disney’s "Hercules" soundtrack, and when they were done, the Riverview auditorium erupted in applause.

The four members of the group — Tim Waurick, Eric Dalbey, Chris Hallam and Jonny Moroni — took a moment to introduce themselves and speak about their journey in the singing world. And then they set out to show the students how they craft their harmonies.

Jonny Moroni of Vocal Spectrum leads the Riverview students in a singing exercise. (Photo: Spencer Fordin)

“My name is Chris. I sing the low notes. I sing the bass parts. From 9 to 5, I’m an elementary school principal,” said Hallam during his introduction. “It’s cool to have things like this if you continue down the path of music that can supplement what you do for a living. We’ve been able to see the world, travel the United States and sing for amazing audiences and high school kids like yourself all over the place. Just because we met in music program.”

When the introductions were done, the group told the students about tags, which allow barbershop quartets to break the song down into bite-sized chunks for each vocal range.

The lead voice in barbershop quartets, they explained, is usually the second highest voice. The students sorted themselves into the vocal range they most identified with, and then Vocal Spectrum led them through a singing exercise.

After they had made beautiful music together, Vocal Spectrum took questions from the students on a wide range of subjects.

They shared that there is an all women’s a cappella society — Sweet Adelines International — and said that the Barbershop Harmony Society has recently opened to people of all genders.

The group said that they have about 100 songs in their repertoire, but some are a little rusty because they haven’t been performed live in an extended amount of time.

Vocal Spectrum invited the students out to the Chorus of the Keys annual performance before they left, and they encouraged them to pursue music at any level that speaks to them.

Ken Rear, president of Chorus of the Keys, said he was thrilled to interact with the students.

“This is terrific,” says Rear. “If it can change a few lives, that’s all that matters.”

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