Advanced Search | Search A!:
Volume 24, Number 9 — September 2017

Children's Choral Academy Singers in National Honor Choirs

MECCA singers in the OAKE Concert Choir.
MECCA singers in the OAKE Concert Choir.
Additional photos below »

One-third of the soloists were from the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy

April 09, 2009

Twenty-five members of the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy recently participated in the national honor choirs at the Organization of American Kodály Educators Conference, held March 11-14, 2009, in Washington, DC. Twenty-seven singers were accepted, but two could not attend.

The singers were accepted into the children's, youth and concert choirs for the conference through recorded auditions. Each choir consists of the top 150 singers from among 994 auditioning applicants from across the nation. While in Washington, D.C., four singers were chosen as soloists in the culminating concerts. The result was that one-third of the soloists were from the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy.

The participating singers included the following:

BRISTOL SINGERS

Grace Grunstra, 14, daughter of Dr. Bernie and Ruth Grunstra, is a ninth-grader in home school, Bristol, Va. She was selected as a soloist in the Washington, D.C. OAKE Concert Choir because her audition recording was one of the top three among the sopranos auditioning throughout the nation. She has been a member of MECCA for seven years and has participated in the Children's, Youth Choir and now the Concert Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for five years, traveling to Springfield, Ma.; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago, Denver and now Washington, D.C. She also performed in the off-Broadway musical Count to Ten, and most recently in Barter Theatre's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She sang in the 20th International Chamber Choir Competition in Pécs, Hungary, with the Highlands Youth Ensemble.

Rachel Grunstra, 16, is also the daughter of Dr. Bernie and Ruth Grunstra, and an eleventh-grader in home school, Bristol, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for seven years and has participated in the Youth Choir and now the Concert Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for four years, traveling to Springfield, Ma.; Charlotte, N.C.; Denver and now Washington, D.C. She also performed in Barter Theatre's Beauty and the Beast, was "Mary' in Bristol's Christmas program Journey's End (2007-2008), in the off-Broadway musical Count to Ten, and sang in the 20th International Chamber Choir Competition in Pécs, Hungary, with the Highlands Youth Ensemble.

Claire Morison, 13, daughter of Whit and Jane Morison, is an eighth-grader at Virginia Middle School, Bristol, Va. She was selected as a soloist in the Washington, D.C., OAKE Youth Choir. She has been a member of MECCA for five years and has participated in the Children's Choir and now the Youth Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for three years, traveling to Charlotte, N.C.; Denver; and now Washington, D.C. In addition to making All-District Choir, she is an award-winning violinist in the Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra, and has won competitions in both violin and piano for the Bristol Music Club and the Bristol Music Festival. She has played violin for "Tunes @ Noon" at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol and at Speyfest in Northern Scotland. The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games named her Most Promising Junior Fiddler in Scottish Fiddling, Junior Division. She also enjoys reading, biking and singing in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Peter Morison, 9, son of Whit and Jane Morison, is a fourth-grader at Van Pelt Elementary School, Bristol, Va. He has been a member of MECCA for two years and is participating in the Children's Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for his first time. As a fiddler he received second prize in the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Novice Division, and plays violin in the Symphony of the Mountains Youth String Ensemble. An honor student, he enjoys soccer, football, swimming, violin, fishing, biking and singing in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Jonna Pickard, 12, daughter of Dr. Simeon and Valerie Pickard, is a seventh-grader at Vance Middle School, Bristol, Tenn. She has been a member of MECCA for one year and is participating in the Youth Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. She also is an accomplished piano student and a member of the BASA swim team, Vance swim team and Vance volleyball team. She has been singing with the East Tennessee Children's Choir in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.


ABINGDON SINGERS

Joseph Brooks, 15, son of Joe and Gina Brooks, is a freshman at Abingdon High School, Abingdon, Va. He has been a member of MECCA for five years and is participating in the Concert Choir in the OAKE National Honor Choirs for his first time. He also has been selected for All-County Chorus and was rated First Bass in All-District Chorus. His other interests include tennis and acting, including singing in Barter Theatre productions of Oliver, W.M.K.S. and Winnie the Pooh.

Bethany Dawson, 13, daughter of David and Regina Dawson, is an eighth-grader in home school in Abingdon, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for two years and is participating in the Youth Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. She also is an award-winning cellist in the Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra. In addition to playing cello, violin and piano, she enjoys reading, basketball and singing as a member of the East Tennessee Children's Choir in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

John Dreyzehner, 18, son of Dr. John and Dr. Jana Dreyzehner, is a senior at Abingdon High School, Abingdon, Va. He has been a member of MECCA for three years and has participated in the Concert Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for three years, traveling to Chicago, Denver, and now Washington, DC. His other outstanding musical honors include: 2007 Virginia Lion's Club Bland Scholarship for top six in piano; 2008 First Place in State PTA Reflections Music Composition; 2008 Governor's School; 2008 VMEA Senior Honors Choir, First in Region VII , Bass 1; and 2009 All-State Chorus. He was "Joseph' in Bristol's Christmas program Journey's End in 2007 & 2008. His other honors include: Eagle Scout, Venture Silver Award, President's Volunteer Service Gold Award, Swim Team Captain and All State Honors with three AHS Swim records, History Academic Team Captain, AP Scholar, All-A Honor Roll, Boy's State Best Citizen, and Olympic Development Program Soccer Team.

Adam Gambrel, 14, son of Greg and Linda Gambrel, is an eighth-grader at E.B. Stanley Middle School, Abingdon, Va. He has been a member of MECCA for four years and has participated in the Youth Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for three years, traveling to Chicago, Denver, and now Washington, DC. He was selected for All-County and All-District Band and Chorus twice and performed in three Barter Theatre productions: Evita, Christmas Carol and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He is a Junior National Leadership Scholar and Student Body Vice President and enjoys Scouts, piano, jazz band and swimming.

Jordan Hawkins, 14, daughter of Dr. Andy and Dr. Diane Hawkins, is an eighth-grader in home school in Abingdon, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for four years and has participated in the Youth Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for two years, traveling to Denver and now Washington, DC. She also is an accomplished piano student who enjoys writing stories and singing as a member of the East Tennessee Children's Choir in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Sunshine Hughes, 11, daughter of Jeff and Becca Hughes of Abingdon, Va., is a fifth-grader at Sullins Academy, Bristol, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for two years and is participating in the Children's Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. She sang at Biltmore Estate with the East Tennessee Children's Choir, was voted best piano student at Sullins Academy in 2006, and is a trophy winner in the Bristol Music Festival. Her other interests include dancing and fashion design. She enjoys singing as a member of the East Tennessee Children's Choir in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Emily McCraw, 13, daughter of Dr. Jeff and Miranda McCraw, is an eighth-grader in home school, in Abingdon, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for three years and has participated in the Youth Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for two years, traveling to Denver in 2008. She also is an accomplished piano student who enjoys basketball and singing as a member of the East Tennessee Children's Choir in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Morgan Merrill, 10, daughter of Dr. Jeffrey R. Merrill and Lauretta Lynn-Merrill, is a fifth-grader at Watauga Elementary School, Abingdon, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for two years and is participating in the Children's Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. An Honor Roll student, she has sung at Biltmore Estate twice with the East Tennessee Children's Choir and is currently singing in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Her other interests include dance, piano, reading, and playing with her dog Cami.

Katelyn Merrill, 15, also the daughter of Dr. Jeffrey R. Merrill and Lauretta Lynn-Merrill, is a ninth-grader at Abingdon High School, Abingdon, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for six years and has participated in the Youth Choir and now Concert Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for five years, singing in Springfield, Ma.; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago, Denver, and now Washington, D.C. She also has soloed at Biltmore Estate, sang in All-County Chorus and Junior All-District Chorus, and attended VocalArts 2008 at James Madison University. An Honor Roll student, she enjoys reading, films, and sketching.

Bronwyn Redvers-Lee, 10, daughter of Dr. Elizabeth Boyd and Peter Redvers-Lee of Emory, Va., is a fifth-grader at Meadowview Elementary School, Meadowview, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for two years and is participating in the Children's Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. She studies piano, enjoys riding horses, playing soccer, and loves singing as a member of the East Tennessee Children's Choir in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.


JOHNSON CITY SINGERS

Rosa Coletti, 13, daughter of R. Anthony and Cindy Coletti of Jonesborough, Tenn., is an eighth-grade home school student now attending Ashley Academy. She was selected as a soloist in the Washington, D.C. OAKE Youth Choir. She has been a member of MECCA for more than four years and is participating in the Youth Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. She also is an award-winning pianist in the Johnson City Sonata Festival and AMTA auditions and she played trumpet in Honors Band. She is a past recipient of the Anna Love Scholarship from the East Tennessee Children's Choir. Her interests include reading, writing, musical theater, opera and singing as a member of the East Tennessee Children's Choir in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Avery Deakins, 13, son of Eddie and Kathy Deakins, is a seventh-grader at Indian Trail Middle School, Johnson City, Tenn. He was selected as a soloist in the Washington, DC, OAKE Youth Choir. He has been a member of MECCA for five years and has participated in the Children's and Youth Choirs of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for three years, traveling to Chicago, Denver, and this year Washington, D.C. He sang the role of Amahl in East Tennessee State University's production of Menotti's opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. He sang the boy soprano solos in Mendelssohn's Elijah with Central Baptist Church, and he sings with his church and school choirs often. He has performed at the Blue Plum Festival in Johnson City the past two years. His artwork placed second in the state in the PTA's Reflections Cultural Arts Contest. He loves acting, singing and art.

Ramsey Gross, 16, daughter of Dr. Ronnie and Ronda Gross, is a sophomore at Science Hill High School, Johnson City, Tenn. She has been a member of MECCA for seven years and has participated in the Youth and Concert Choirs of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for five years, traveling to Springfield, Ma.; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago, Denver and now Washington, D.C. She was awarded Best Singer in the Sonata Festival. She plays piano, loves photography, and is a budding graphic artist, serving the MECCA website with her photo creations.

Will McConnell, 18, son of Bill and Peggy McConnell, is a senior at University School, Johnson City, Tenn. He has been a member of MECCA for eight years and has participated in the Youth and Concert Choirs of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for five years, traveling to Minneapolis, San Francisco, Denver, Springfield, Ma,, and now Washington, DC. He has sung in the All-East Choirs and he sang the leads in High School Musical and The Ghost of Featherstone. He is an Eagle Scout who also enjoys basketball and water sports.

Brenna Williams, 11, daughter of Steve and Tammy Williams, is a fifth-grader at Providence Academy, Johnson City, Tenn. She has been a member of MECCA for two and a half years and is participating in the Children's Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. She has sung with the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra, at Biltmore Estate with the East Tennessee Children's Choir, and in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She loves piano, musical theater and dance.

FROM KINGSPORT, TENN.

Abi Bell, 13, daughter of Peter and Barbara Bell, is a ninth-grader in home school in Kingsport, Tenn. She has been a member of MECCA for two years and is participating in the Youth Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. She was awarded an OAKE Scholarship this year. She also enjoys reading, writing, art, dance, theater and singing in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

GREENEVILLE SINGERS

Taylor Barton Moorefield, 14, son of Sarah Killam and Ronnie Moorefield, is a ninth-grader in home school, Mosheim, Tenn. He has been a member of MECCA for five and a half years and has participated in the Youth and now Concert Choirs of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for three years, traveling to Chicago, Denver and now Washington, DC. He has received two MECCA scholarships and two scholarships to RSCM in Charlotte, NC. He has attended VocalArts for several years at James Madison University. He is an accomplished pianist, invited to play for weddings and social events and receiving top scores in the Bristol Music Festival. He is the accompanist for the Symphony of the Mountains Youth String Ensemble. A Green Belt in Martial Arts, he enjoys volunteering, Boy Scouts, sports, violin, piano and voice.

FROM ELIZABETHTON

Emily May, 17, daughter of Dr. Scott and Cindy May, is a junior at Elizabethton High School, Elizabethton, Tenn. She has been a member of MECCA for four years and is participating in the Concert Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. She had also made All-East Choir, First Chair All-State SATB Choir, UT Honor Choir 2008 and top scores for five years for both artistic and musical theater songs in the ETSU Music Festival. Other honors include the Girl Scout Bronze Award and Betsy Band and Color Guard Captain. She enjoys drama and church activities.

FROM MARION, VA

Alex Taylor, 16, daughter of Brett and Ari Taylor, is a junior at Marion Senior High School, Marion, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for one and a half years and has participated in the Concert Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for two years, traveling to Denver and now Washington, D.C. She also takes private voice and is active on her school's swim team and soccer team.

FROM LEBANON, VA

Maggie Melton, 10, daughter of Dr. Hughes and Sarah Melton of Lebanon, Va., is a fifth -grader at Sullins Academy, Bristol, Va. She has been a member of MECCA for two years and is participating in the Children's Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs for her first time. She received the 2008 Sullins Academy Music Award for Violin and the Sullins Academy Idol First Place Award in Vocal Performance. She is a member of the Sullins Academy Soaring Eagles Choir. Her other interests include ballet, handbells, theater, and singing in Barter Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The singers spent the first three days of the conference in rehearsal with internationally known directors. The National Conference Choirs Concerts, performed in the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall, concluded the conference on Saturday evening.

The Organization of American Kodály Educators is a national organization of music educators dedicated to teaching students of all ages the Kodály method of music instruction. Developed by Zoltán Kodály of Hungary, the method involves using hand signs to represent the musical notes of do, re, mi, etc. This method is used by the conductors of the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy program, whose artistic director is Jane DeLoach Morison. The Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy includes the Highlands Youth Ensemble, Da Capo Choir and the East Tennessee Children's Choir, all directed by Morison, and a Chorister Choir in Bristol, directed by Valerie Pickard.
For more information about the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy, visit www.meccacademy.org.

A! ExtraTopics: Family, Music



MECCA singers in OAKE Youth Choir.


MECCA singers in the OAKE Children's Choir.