KSU Community and Alumni Choir preparing for May 4 concert

(April 9, 2019) The Kennesaw State University Community and Alumni Choir has been singing, performing and entertaining for more than a dozen years now and is currently preparing for its spring concert in early May.

Under the direction of Dr. Leslie J. Blackwell, the School of Music’s director of choral activities, the choir includes members from surrounding areas of Kennesaw State. A variety of individuals are in the choir, which also includes principal accompanist Sherri N. Barrett.

Alumni Choir practice“We have several husband-and-wife members, alumni, retirees, faculty and staff, students and members that sponsor personal student scholarships at KSU,” said University employee Kathy Rechsteiner, who serves as president and is a charter member of the choir.

Formed in the fall of 2007, the choir – with a motto of “Sing your heart out!” – got off to a strong start and has consistently featured more than 80 members, and at times over 100.

“We realized there was no community outreach from the University for a choral ensemble, which most universities have,” Blackwell said. “This was thinking of a way to interact with our community at KSU and bring the greater community together for one purpose, and the purpose was singing. It was a way to engage KSU – our community of faculty, staff, students and alumni – together singing. It took about a year of planning together with a dedicated group of alumni that were past music students.

“It’s ended up being a fantastic avenue for our alumni, staff, faculty and community to give back to the University, and there’s a great synergy about their giving. It’s an incredible adventure every week at rehearsals and the folks here come simply because they want to sing and be a part of KSU!”

The group of male and female singers meets regularly to rehearse during the academicAlumni Choir Practice year on Monday nights at the Katherine Scott Rehearsal Hall, which is inside Kennesaw State’s Dr. Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center. The all-volunteer, non-auditioned choir hosts two concerts each year, one each at the end of the fall and spring semesters.

The choir, a non-profit organization, is coming off an exceptional holiday show in December 2018. “International Carol Suites” was a celebration that featured well-loved carols from 15 countries, many of which were sung in their original language.

“We had a 17-piece orchestra with us,” Rechsteiner said of the December show. “It was probably the best concert that we’ve ever done. It was phenomenal.”

Now, the choir is getting ready for another outstanding performance in its spring show on Saturday, May 4. Composer Michael John Trotta’s “For a Breath of Ecstasy” starts at 7 p.m. inside the Morgan Concert Hall on KSU’s Kennesaw campus. The music chronicles the works of celebrated American poet Sara Teasdale. Tickets can be purchased through the College of the Arts Box Office.

There are many aspects of the choir that Rechsteiner enjoys, but what she likes most is learning about the art of singing and the camaraderie.

“I like the fact that every rehearsal feels like a class,” Rechsteiner said. “It feels like a college music class.

“When the choir came out, I thought I’d join it since it was non-auditioned. A lot of people are hesitant to join auditioned choirs because they feel like they’re not good enough. But here, we lift each other up and Leslie teaches us to sing as one.”

Blackwell, an extraordinary instructor who has been at Kennesaw State since 1998, has conducted several choral ensembles during her career as a music educator. Not only does she work with KSU’s ensembles, but others throughout the area.

One Kennesaw State alumnus who belongs to the choir is Kevin Loggins ’17, who earned his Bachelor of Science in communication with a media studies concentration. Loggins, a Lassiter High School graduate from Marietta, was drawn into the choir primarily because of Blackwell.

Leslie Blackwell“I had been singing a little bit in high school and I heard about the great reputation Dr. Blackwell has,” Loggins said. “Everybody around the country knows who she is and I couldn’t pass up the chance to be in her choir. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

“I love signing with other people and the sense of community you get. You get close with people when you create something special. It’s where you get to go into a room of complete strangers and then, a couple hours later, you feel like they’re your family.”

Loggins also stated that he has been a part of the community and alumni choir, on and off, for about five years. As a student, he also sang in the KSU Men’s Ensemble and Chamber Singers.

At rehearsal sessions, Rechsteiner collects loose change and other donations from members of the choir. The money goes toward the KSU Community & Alumni Choir Choral Scholarship. 

“We have a student scholarship that we raise money for,” Rechsteiner said. “We do a $1,000 scholarship a year and within the choir, we also have people who have scholarships of their own. These are people who sing in the choir that also give back.”

The scholarship established by the choir provides financial support to a student enrolled full time as an undergraduate music major. The recipient must have a minimum grade-point average of 2.75 and participate in a Kennesaw State choral ensemble.

Brandon Cali, from Woodstock, Georgia and Etowah High School, received the scholarship for 2018-19. He is a current tenor in the KSU Men’s Ensemble and Chamber Singers.

As a 501(c)(3) organization, the choir is not only always looking for members, but also for financial support with the ultimate goal of helping students.

“We’re a non-profit so if people want to donate to us, it’s tax deductible,” Rechsteiner said. “Our mission is to give back to music education. That’s why we support students singing with us. Not only do alumni sing, but we’ve got current students that sing with us and play instruments for us, so we are highlighting the KSU students through our choir.”

Through its beautiful singing, the KSU Community and Alumni Choir has served as a fantastic representation of Kennesaw State, its music education program and the community. Hopefully, the choir continues to grow, prosper and benefit students for generations to come.

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