[October 15, 2019 | MENA, Ark.] Adding to the historical developments for the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain, UARM, the new Voice of the Ouachitas Choir debuted their talents singing the Star-Spangled Banner before the Bucks Cross Country Lions Club Season Opener, August 31. The choir is under the leadership of Stephanie Tapley.
Voice of the Ouachitas choir members for 2019 and their respective graduating high schools are: Emilee Harvey, Acorn; McKayla Lane, Mena; Jonathan Murr, Acorn; Victoria Chapel, Waldron; Brooklyn Beck, Mena; MacKenzie McAllister, Mena; and Jacob Ward, Acorn. At this time, all seven are on choral scholarships. The Voice of the Ouachitas Scholarship is a participation scholarship, so their attendance to rehearsals and events determines eligibility. In addition, students must have graduated high school or received their GED, maintain a 2.5 GPA and participate in an informal audition.
Tapley wasted no time in getting her group into rehearsals to be ready for their debut last Friday. The Choir began rehearsals August 4, before classes officially began, and practice twice a week, Sunday and Friday afternoons.
Tapley said she is impressed with the talent she was able to recruit for their first year, “Our local high school choir directors have excellent choral programs, so that is where we began recruiting for this school year. Our students are very talented and excited about having the opportunity to be a student-lead group.”
Tapley is grateful to UA Rich Mountain’s Chancellor Phillip Wilson who asked her to explore the possibilities. “After singing with a group of coworkers at a Christmas lunch, Dr. Wilson asked me to write a proposal for a student choir… and here we are. I have told our students that they will determine the direction of this program. As an attendance award, one of our students got to choose our next piece. There are also two students that have ukuleles so we have decided to choose some songs that will use that talent as well.”
Voice of the Ouachitas’ selections for upcoming performances include spirituals, jazz, traditional and pop. “One of our favorites is “The Defining Moment” by PINKZEBRA. It really is about making your positive change to the world. My greatest surprise has been during sight reading, the students never just gave up or quit because a song was unknown, different or challenging. And they didn’t reply on how they hated the song, but rather said, ‘Ok, well, that will take some work.’” Tapley added that you can often hear choir members singing their favorite songs as they walk around between classes.
Upcoming performances of the Voice of the Ouachitas are: the Ouachita Arts Celebration on November 2 and the UARM Christmas Open House on December 11 in the Ouachita Center. “And, we plan to be visiting area churches and organizations. We will be having a Valentines Concert on February 13th in the Ouachita Center at UA Rich Mountain.”
Scholarship applications and Choir information is located on the UA Rich Mountain Mena campus in the Maddox Tower room.
PICTURED LEFT TO RIGHT: Emilee Harvey, McKayla Lane, Mackenzie McAllister, Jon Merr (Brooklyn Beck)