Festival of Voices breaks records… again.

The seventh annual Festival of Voices had a record-breaking number of student participation at the Sept. 25 event held in the Bryan Fine Arts Building’s Wattenbarger Auditorium. Craig Zamer, professor and director of choral activities, said more than 430 high school and college students participated in the vocal workshops and concert.

Senior Tennessee Tech Chorale member DeAnna Etchison said the festival has come a long way since its start. The first couple of festivals only had about three or four high schools participate compared to the seven that performed Friday night, said Etchison.

“I’ve been a part of this festival for the past four years and it just continues to grow larger,” said Etchison. “It’s a nice thing to see more students come out for the vocal workshops and concert.”

Etchison said the number of high school participants grew this year in part because of additional funding from the S.O.L.O. program on campus. She said this helped get the word of the festival out to more groups than usual.

“Hopefully the extra promotion of the festival also makes it more open to the Tech students on campus,” said Etchison.

The high school choirs and Tech’s chorale and concert choir performed a variety of songs, including multiple Latin pieces, a few gospel and one African piece, which had a drum beat that accompanied the singing.

The concert concluded with two songs performed by the nine combined choirs. One piece, “Lift Your Voice in Praise and Thanksgiving,” originally composed by G.F. Handel, was arranged by Festival of Voices guest conductor Brad Holmes.

Holmes is the director of choir programs at Millikan University in Illinois. According to his website, Holmes has conducted more than 230 festival choirs.  

"I enjoyed working with Brad Holmes because he offered emotion with the music,” said Hannah Shepperd, Summit High School student. “All directors offer different perspectives and I took a lot away from his.”

Zamer said he has been trying to get Holmes as a guest conductor for years but the schedules have never worked out until this year.

“I like working with the high school students,” said Adam Cox, Tech Chorale member. “I participated in the festival whenever I was in high school, so it’s fun being on the other side.”

At the end of the festival, Holmes addressed the audience with how pleased he was with all of the choirs and Tennessee Tech. He also offered the audience some advice in reference to the last song of the festival, titled “I Will Sing.”

“When things get tough, figure out how to sing,” said Holmes. “When it’s too hard, reach into your soul and sing from it.”