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New Pacer Singers travel US to perform their music

By Alex Jacobi
On January 16, 2013

While most UTM students spent their last week of the holiday break relaxing or perhaps preparing for the upcoming semester, members of the New Pacer Singers ended their break by sharing their music with the Northwest region of the U.S.

Leaving on Jan. 3, the singers traveled through Oregon and Washington, stopping to perform at First Presbyterian Church of Portland, Ore.; First Congregational Church of Medford, Ore.; St. Mary's School of Medford, Ore.; and University Unitarian Church of Seattle, Wash.

In each of the places, the choir performed a set list of pieces that they had been working on all semester, including "Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe" by Felix Mendelssohn, "O Nata Lux" by Guy Forbes, "Sixty-Seventh Psalm" by Charles Ives, "Four Motets" by Aaron Copland, "Lux Aeterna" by John Cameron, "Os Justi" by Anton Bruckner, "Not an End of Loving" by Steven Sametz, "Ubi Caritas" by Guy Forbes and "Wana Baraka" by Shawn Kirchner.

Despite the challenges of the music and distance traveled, the members enjoyed not only sharing their music, but representing UTM and the UTM Music Department in a positive light.

"This was my first tour. I absolutely loved it! I realized that our program actually reaches out into urban areas all over the world, and people really love hearing about small-town success," said Animal Science major and ensemble member Kirby Cherry.

"This tour to the Northwest was wonderful, because Tennessee is so far away from the audiences we reached. It was a great opportunity for UTM to spread its outreach for all areas of study. There were representatives from almost every department on campus [on this tour] from music to computer science to accounting, and so much more. Like Dr. Simmons says, the folks we encounter may not have heard of us, but after they meet us they know that UTM is a diverse community of students who are intelligent and creative," said Music Education major and ensemble member Carley Cherry.

Even though for many of this year's members, it was their first time touring, it is certainly not the first time for the ensemble, with the ensemble having travelled to 17 different states in the past eight years. Director of Choral Activities Dr. Mark Simmons finds traveling to be an important aspect of the music experience.

"One of the most important missions of UTM is to introduce its students to the world, while at the same time introducing the world to them. Choral tours are one of the best ways for a distant community to learn about us and what we value. When audiences hear our choirs, they immediately understand that we value art at a high level. For me, that is one of the reasons it is so powerful," Simmons said.

With this true appreciation for art, many of the students feel that the work they are accomplishing is not only a good representation of the university, but it is also good for them on a personal level, giving them unforgettable experiences.

"It is such a blessing to be able to sing with such a great group of people and be led by such an awesome educator like Dr. Simmons. I would've never thought twice about visiting Oregon, so without this opportunity, I would truly have been missing out. ... This tour helped me as a musician, because it showed me how narrow and boxed-in even artists like ourselves can become. Sometimes all you need is to step outside of your personal norm to get that creative spark going again," said Music Education major and ensemble member Ebonie Harrell.

"I loved the changing sceneries of the Northwest. Jumping into the Pacific Ocean was the best part for me. I have now been to both oceans around the country, and it felt so awesome to accomplish that," Kirby Cherry said.

Simmons believed the tour was both successful and enjoyable.

"We were able to perform in awesome venues in these places. For me, that is what makes a tour successful. I want these communities to gain an understanding of UTM and western Tennessee, but I further want the singers to really explore the local flavor of all of the cities we travel to. ... While I certainly loved having the choir perform for old friends and colleagues of mine, the best experience for me was watching the students run down the Oregon dunes into the Pacific Ocean. That's a site I'll never forget," Simmons said.

Any student can get involved in the choral program at UTM by signing up for University Singers, the large ensemble, and then auditioning for New Pacers in the fall.

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