Music majors use festival to serve local students

John Brown University will host its annual Solo and Ensemble Music Festival on April 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Around 300 middle and high school students from the Northwest Arkansas region will attend the festival, which provides an opportunity for students in grades 7-12 to perform solos, duets, quartets or small group ensembles for judges in order to receive constructive feedback.

Students participating in the festival will be judged on several different skills, which including song memorization, tone quality, tune and expression.

“They’re not really competing against each other, really they’re competing against themselves. It’s a fairly positive experience for them and it’s a way to encourage them to continue on,” Becky Pohle, administrative assistant for the division of communication and fine arts, said.

Local music educators and music professionals will serve as judges to evaluate students.

“Judges are people who teach voice at either the college or elementary level because we don’t want any conflicts with the grade levels,” Pohle said.

The festival is a way in which the University gives back to the community. It serves local schoolteachers by giving their students a chance to perform and talented musicians by giving them helpful feedback.

“It’s a way that we show hospitality. It makes a difference to the young students that come here,” Pohle said. “This is an outreach. The whole goal is to be an encouragement to these young students.”

Not only is the festival an opportunity for students to learn, it is also a fundraiser for the Music Service Organization, which uses the entry fees to fund the music department.

“The Music Service Organization seeks to provide services for the music department and learning opportunities for music education students specifically,” according to the University’s website. “Among its many services, MSO provides ushers, reception-workers and stage managers for recitals, performances and Artist Series events.”

“Solo and ensemble is a big thing we do every year. Most of the money we get goes to funding the music banquet, which is a big event for the music department every year. We volunteer at music and theatre events. We also volunteer for things like plays. We fill a niche in the music and theatre department,” Steven Hamilton, president of the Music Service Organization, said.

Hamilton said the festival provides an opportunity for the University to reach out to the community and provide a service to local students.

“It’s not only the Siloam community, but the general Arkansas community,” Hamilton said. “There is a need for these kids that we’re meeting. The opportunity to perform in an environment where you can get good criticism is vital to musical development so they can improve.”