The University of South Dakota Chamber Choir puts in many hours of work every year. This year, their work paid off in a big way. They were selected as one of five finalists in The American Prize in Choral Performance.
Director of USD choirs David Holdhusen decided to enter the group of 32 members for the first time this year.
Holdhusen said the organization selects winners based upon the submitted material from the group.
“To audition for the (American Prize in Choral Performance), you compile a CD with 30 minutes of music on it,” Holdhusen said. “I chose pieces from last year’s concert that represented the best of what we did.”
Holdhusen said the organization makes the auditions doable for everyone because every choir records their concerts.
Holdhusen said the chamber choir is the most elite choir at USD and the members have worked extremely hard to get to
“These students put in a tremendous amount of work. Their motivation is the concert,” Holdhusen said. “The (American Prize in Choral Performance) is a perk to put them up against other groups as a reward for the work they put into the concert performance.”
Senior Adrian Ries is the student conductor of the chamber choir. He said the group puts in many hours of practice during class as well as outside of it.
“Chamber choir meets three times a week during class, once a week for sectionals and has rehearsals with members of the group outside of class throughout the week,” Ries said.
Junior Ashley Hogarth, vice president of the chamber choir, said the work the choir does is mainly focused on the concert and the tour they do each spring.
“The focus is to work up to the tour we do over spring break, which is a part of being in chamber choir,” Hogarth said. “It was a bonus to be nominated for the (American Prize in Choral Performance) and it was great to be recognized.”
Hogarth said a main part of being in chamber choir is putting in extra time outside of class.
“We tour every year over our spring break,” Hogarth said. “We go to high schools, and it’s a great recruiting opportunity for USD.”
Holdhusen said being in the top five was also great for the music department at USD.
“It shows the hard work the students put in and it’s a feather in the cap for the department,” Holdhusen said.
Ries said they learn many songs every year.
“We started working last year at the beginning of the semester,” Ries said. “We learned 23 songs, which is about two hours of music. That is the same every year.”
Ries said the choir consists of more than just musical majors, too.
“The number of music majors is about a 50:50 ratio with students majoring in something else. We have graduate students, students majoring in history, biology, political science and even English,” Ries said.
Ries said the experience has been great, especially with the outcome this year.
“We haven’t entered before this year. It’s great to be recognized nationally for the first time,” Ries said.
Holdhusen said the group also shows musicianship with their songs, not just the technicality of being able to sing.
“They’ve portrayed the musicianship in the ensembles by showing the musical messages within the songs,” Holdhusen said.
Hogarth said it is a great honor to be recognized nationally.
“For us, this is the equivalent of being nominated for a Grammy,” Hogarth said. “The culmination of every year and the work that the students put in makes us better. We’re not stopping here as far as getting better.”
Holdhusen said being in the top five finalists got the group excited to start the new year.
“Being in the top five shows that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and reaching the level of excellence,” Holdhusen said.
Reach reporter Emily Niebrugge at Emily.Niebrugge@usd.edu