Summer choir camp hits high note with kids

Sit very tall. Open your rib cage and look up from your music. Sing with heart and soul. As Elaine Quilichini conducted at the Children's Kodaly Summer Choir Camp, she gave her students many instructions to follow.

After they sang one of their pieces again, this time trying to connect the notes, she asked them, "Did you hear the difference? Holy moly!"

On Monday, Quilichini directed 28 children on the stage of Wichita State University's Wiedemann Recital Hall, where they will perform a concert Friday.

The children, who range in age from 10 to 15, will have eight pieces to perform from memory. The concert is free and open to the public.

Quilichini, artistic director for the Calgary Girls Choir, has conducted at the camp since it started in 2006. She said she has seen the children improve from the challenging camp.

"When I first came, I really enjoyed the children here and thought we made great progress, but I also have thought that the program has developed over the five years," Quilichini said. "And amazingly, even though I only see them for that week, the standard has risen every year."

As Quilichini directed, she moved across the stage, rising on her toes when the children sang high notes. She asked choir members to think about what they were singing.

Melissa Olson, 14, who has gone to camp all five years, said Quilichini is one of the reasons she comes back.

"She gets on a personal level with us and knows how to connect with us so we know how to apply (the music) to our lives," Olson said.

The camp follows the model of Zoltan Kodaly, a Hungarian educator and composer. One of his philosophies was that music should be for everybody, said Kirk Olson, director of WSU's Kodaly programs.

Another of Kodaly's beliefs, Olson said, was that only the best music is good enough for teaching young people. For this reason, Quilichini picks varied pieces for the children to sing, some of which are in other languages.

Quilichini said she tries to pick songs that will educate the children and inspire them.

"The truth is if it's good music, it speaks to what's real, not what's artificial," she said. "Real music tends to go deeper, and as a human being you do respond to it."