During the first meeting of VOCE since the former artistic director Mark Merritt left the group to further his education, the new director introduced herself and became familiar with the community choral group on Monday night.
Preliminary plans for the new season include creative changes to the group’s concert style while preserving the signature VOCE sound and quality.
“The changes should prove to be very entertaining and something for everyone to enjoy,” said Mark Gillespie, a member of VOCE’s board of directors.
Patti Miller Fulk is the artistic director for the 2012-2013 concert season. She stepped in for Merritt, who has chosen to pursue his master’s degree in choral conducting through the University of Texas at San Antonio.
VOCE was established in 2002 by the late Sandy Beam. His dream was to develop a premier choral ensemble featuring some of Surry County’s most talented musicians. Fulk studied with Beam from the first to the 12th grade.
She is a graduate of North Surry High School and Mars Hill College with a B.A. degree in music education. She is a member of the American Choral Director’s Association, the NC Music Educator’s Association and is the music director of the First Baptist Church in Dobson. She taught in area schools for 27 and a half years until her retirement in December of 2011.
“She will bring a wealth of experience to the ensemble,” said Gillespie.
During the group’s first practice at the Scout Hut at First Presbyterian Church earlier this week, Fulk explained her vision to the group and let them listen to some music she would like them to practice for a winter concert.
“I want the persona of VOCE not to be as an elitist group. I want you to be a great choir again because of the way you sing,” said Fulk.
She also mentioned that while there are returning and new members to the group, new voices, both male and female, are needed.
“During our first meeting, I was impressed with the obvious talent,” said Fulk.
She explained that Beam has had a tremendous impact on her life.
“He is the reason that I do what I do today,” said Fulk. “He created a standard for vocal music that probably everyone here knows. It’s a gift. I hope to create a deep love of singing choral music, which is really a dying art in our public schools, in our community and in our churches. It will be a daunting task, but I’m already feeling a lot of energy from the group. They are excited.”
Fulk introduced two new learning techniques to the group including Solfege and Takadini, which she said will help them all learn better together. Solfege is a musical technique that uses hand motions. Takadini is a more rhythmic way of learning.
VOCE’s Board of Directors has been restructured and developed new by-laws in order to remain in compliance with its non-profit status, Gillespie said.
He said this summer has been one of transition for VOCE.
“We are saddened by the passing of our extremely talented accompanist and friend, Tony Robertson. His contribution to VOCE will be greatly missed,” said Gillespie.
Going forward, the group is going to need financial support from the community.
“If anyone is interested in making a tax-deductible donation it would be most appreciated. The money goes towards the purchase of music, stipends for accompanists and administrative supports,” said Gillespie. “In order to maintain Sandy’s dream, we rely on the community for financial support. Please help us in continuing that dream with a donation. Your support is needed and most appreciated.”
Those interested in making a donation can send a check or money order, made payable to VOCE, to Mark Gillespie, 523 Broad St. Apt. E, Mount Airy, NC 27030 or by calling 789-2035.
Those interested in auditioning for the group also should call Merritt’s number to express that interest. Practices are held every Monday at the church from 7 to 9 p.m.
Reach Mondee Tilley at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1930.