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Girlchoir Opens Up New Opportunities for Augusta County Kids

The Staunton-Waynesboro area has a long tradition of choral music.But until now there have been few opportunities for children who are interested in singing. Now, as WMRA's Luanne Austin reports, that has changed.

In early December, the newly-formed Virginia Girlchoir surprised the audience at Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville with an impressive Christmas concert. Larry Alderfer Fisher’s daughter, Annika, of Churchville, is an inaugural member of the choir.

LARRY FISHER:  I thought they did extremely well. From the start of the choir—a brand new choir—eleven girls at the first practice and they ended up with eighteen by the time they got to the program. And it was quite amazing to see the progress they made. 

The Virginia Girlchoir was created in August by Julia White, former director of the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir, and Marie Masincup, a longtime collaborator and accompanist. They held auditions in September and began rehearsing in October.  

JULIA WHITE:  I’ve been interested all these years in seeing the wonderful arts community in the Staunton-Waynesboro area, but I haven’t seen a children’s or a girl choir, or a boy choir there, and I thought, I’ve thought for many years, gosh, this is something that needs to happen and would be very well received. Marie Masincup and I, who are longtime friends and colleagues, we’ve talked about this for about eight or ten years. And it was just time, all the pieces fell into place, all sorts of doors opened, we’ve had so much support in so many ways.  

White built her reputation as a choir director for her work with the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir, which she founded in 1992. During the 20 years she directed the choir, it grew to include over 200 singers and traveled across the United States and overseas, performing at Carnegie Hall and the White House. So when Gayle Alderfer Fisher, Annika’s mother, heard White was starting a girlchoir, she got excited about the experience it could offer her daughter.   

GAYLE FISHER:  One of the additional things Julia brings to it is such expertise with music, music theory, so the girls are learning to read music at the same time that they’re learning to do the most they can with their voices and stretch themselves in that way, so it’s very well-rounded.

Annika was excited about it, too.

ANNIKA:  I love to sing—I’ve been in musicals—and I’ve wanted for a while to improve my voice.  

WHITE:  So they feel really special that they’re going to be challenged, that the bar is raised very high but they’re going to know that they’re important, each single person is important, and that we’re all doing something together that we couldn’t do individually.

White and Masincup have seen the choir build the girls’ sense of community, as well as a sense of self-confidence that overflows into other parts of their lives.

WHITE:  I hope that girls really think about this, about coming out and auditioning for the choir. We believe that all girls have potential to sing, that, like a sport, it’s a learning-based activity, that you might not know how to do it today, but I can teach you. You can get better at it, you can become very skilled at singing, and reading music and performing.

The Virginia Girlchoir will hold auditions for girls ages seven through fifteen in January. Tuition assistance is available, so that any girl who wants to sing can have the opportunity.

Luanne Austin was a freelance journalist for WMRA from 2014 - 2015.