Walking down the arts wing of Eastern Mennonite School (EMS), a new captivating display stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of our touring choir and its directors. The display serves as a tribute to the dedication, talent, and unity that have defined this exceptional choir. The Touring Choir’s legacy is more than just a display; it is a testament to the power of music and the transformative experience it offers. It stands as a symbol of excellence and a source of pride for EMS. Its enduring legacy will continue to inspire generations of students to come.
“Music is about the gospel of Jesus Christ – his love for us, his life, and his death. Touring choir not only challenges the students but also instills in them a deep appreciation for the power of music to connect with God and each other. It is through these choral worship services that the choir has not only showcased their musical skills but has also touched the hearts of countless audiences.”
Jared Stutzman, director
Choral music has always been an integral part of EMS since the school was founded in 1917. Until recent decades, most students came to EMS with a history of singing, often in four parts. Changing student demographics and church practices mean choral singing is new to many students. EMS leadership made a strategic decision to continue to make singing together a priority. All middle school students now have a music choral and/or instrumental class every day, year round. This builds a comfort level with singing that has an impact throughout school life, particularly in chapel and for upper level choral programming.
The new display celebrates and showcases the rich history of the touring choir. Photos of the choirs, starting in 1982, had been displayed in the choir room. An installation of a music library and removal of the aging photos inspired the vision to preserve that history in a new way. The new display is a tribute to the dedication and passion of all the students and teachers who have been a part of this esteemed choir since 1982. For some, it serves as a reminder of the impact this choir has had on their families.
Dynamic choir directors like Marvin Miller, 1966-1981, Jay Hartzler, 1982-2013, 2015, and Jared Stutzman, 2014, 2016-present, have left their mark and built a unique choir. When Marvin Miller arrived at EMHS in 1966, he began the first touring chorus, building on a tradition of octets that traveled to churches. Under his direction, EMHS hosted the first Mennonite school choir festival in his first year. Touring choir was first high school choir from Virginia to sing at an American Choral Directors Association conference in 1986, and they also performed at the national Kodaly Conference in 1997. In 1990, they embarked on their first international trip to Germany, commencing a tradition of biennial international tours. They have traveled all over the world to places like Puerto Rico, England, Scotland, The Netherlands, China, Austria, and Switzerland. Their next trip is currently being planned to Europe for summer 2024.
Touring choir offers students an opportunity to refine their musical abilities while simultaneously fostering qualities such as independence, confidence, and maturity. Choir members develop impeccable listening skills, vocal tone, pitch and rhythm accuracy, and sight-reading skills (solfege). These skills are further honed through individual or small-group vocal feedback sessions, ensuring that each member reaches their full potential.
EMS Touring Choir is more than a group of voices; it is a symbol of dedication, faith, and cultural exchange that has touched hearts across the globe. Their legacy of music and worship spans generations and will continue to inspire and uplift for years to come. The EMS Touring Choir is a remarkable group composed of talented students in 11th and 12 grades. It has not only been an integral part of the music curriculum but also a source of personal growth and enrichment for its members. Leaving lasting memories for its members and the broader community that has spanned generations.
Edited November 7 to explain the history behind the project.