DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / "Ole Brook Singers" Franehesaka Smith (from left), Alayna Wooten, Abi Douglas and Dey Dey Lewis practice for their upcoming spring concert Friday.
DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / "Ole Brook Singers" Franehesaka Smith (from left), Alayna Wooten, Abi Douglas and Dey Dey Lewis practice for their upcoming spring concert Friday.

Students finetune voices for spring concert

Published 2:30pm Tuesday, May 6, 2014

As Brookhaven High School students prepare for their upcoming annual spring concert coming up May 15, music instructor and concert director Jens Oliva is walking them through the paces, determined to make this year’s concert the best one yet.

“This year we are going to have a wider selection of songs, from a wider selection of musical styles,” Oliva said. “We think the audience will appreciate it.”

A new touch to the program is the inclusion of a 22-minute rendition of music from Les Miserables and the performance of a song by singer/songwriter Odell. The students will also perform a song co-written by former student Demond Walker and Oliva, titled “We Come Bringing Music.” As the show progresses, students will perform on hand chimes in the stage pit.

The audience can also expect to see up to 20 soloists perform at intervals between a full chorus. Oliva and BHS Librarian Nancy Fisher will be key accompaniments during the concert.

Besides the music, audience members can expect a stage transformation during the concert, and some unique choreography. At Friday’s practice, students were rarely stationary and utilized the entire space of the auditorium.

“One of the biggest differences between this year’s show and past shows is the choreography. We are spending a lot of time on that this year,” Oliva said.

During practice, Oliva would interrupt the students as they sang at times, attempting to get the right key and harmony.

“One breath … Sing mature … Do it again … This time be confident.”

The suggestions seem to work nearly every time as the students come together harmonically. The diverse range of pitch and tone of the 36 singers can be spotty at times, but when all singers work together and try to stay on the same page, the result is soothingly melodic.

There are some bugs to work out, to be sure, but with daily practice, Oliva is beginning to see the show take shape.

“We still have a ways to go, but you can tell the kids are getting the hang of it. As long as they take it seriously, I think it’ll turn out well.”

Oliva has been teaching at BHS for the last five years and has had a transformative effect on the enthusiasm of the students, especially those who strive for musical perfection, such as freshman Alayna Wooten.

Wooten decided to transfer from West Lincoln to Brookhaven High School specifically because of the music department at BHS. Wooten, who plans to pursue a music education after high school, is inspired by her music teacher. “He’s my favorite teacher. He has a great relationship with the students. He teaches us everything about music-including theory.”

In March, 33 of Oliva’s choir students won first place in their division at the Heritage Festival, a national competition held in New Orleans.

His choir also won the state choral sweepstakes award, and received superior ratings for their performances. The award and ratings designate outstanding musical performance throughout the state.

In the past five years, more than 30 of Oliva’s students have made the All-State Honor Choir list, one of the most prestigious recognitions for high school choral students.

Oliva’s students frequently receive music scholarships that assist them at the college and university level.

“He has raised the bar. He enjoys music just as much as anyone of us and we have learned a lot from him,” said Junior Kirk Coleman.

Senior Tyrus Daniels has been in the choral department under Oliva for all four years. He is excited to perform this year’s concert.

“Last year we strictly did choral music. This year the performance will have a better variety and be more contemporary.”

The spring music concert will take place in the BHS auditorium on Thursday, May 15 at 6:30 p.m. The concert is free to the public. The total concert will last close to an hour, Oliva said.