Written by Jenna Klein
Images courtesy of Voices of the Valley
“The lights blind me,
The words escape me.
The crowd staring anxiously.
I breathe slowly,
I calm, I pray,
The piano starts to play.”
- Awake My Song, Christopher Fox
As a part of a community so deeply rooted in the arts, we are constantly in awe of the surplus of immensely talented artists, performers, and creatives within reach. However, this incredible talent does not go unspared on the youth of this city. Voices of the Valley, a non-profit organization that provides the children of the Chattahoochee Valley with excellent choral training and performance opportunities, is a perfect example of the talent that flows through the many generations of Columbus, Georgia.
Voices of the Valley’s Sola Voce choir, an auditioned chamber ensemble, is making history by being the first-ever choir in Columbus, Georgia to be invited to the American Choral Directors Association Southern Region convention. This honor is earned through rigorous study, rehearsals, and a highly selective application process. Earlier this year, these students also performed at the Georgia Music Educators Association conference, another great honor in the choral community. It is safe to say that the caliber of this choir goes beyond what many might expect from an after-school youth choir, and the expectations continue to be exceeded.
A program like ACDA accepts choirs from all over the world, many of which are school programs that have the luxury of rehearsing every day. For an organization like VOV that only rehearses once a week, this is no small feat. The rigor required from all applicants is extensive, and to prepare for the convention itself is not something many choirs would be prepared for. I spoke with Dr. Michelle Folta, the Artistic Director of Voices of the Valley and conductor for Sola Voce, to hear more about this fantastic group of kids and the process they went through to get to this position. The overwhelming conclusion I came to when listening to Dr. Folta talk about these children is that they are a true example of dedication, passion, and grit.
In addition to the commitment to mastering the artistry, the bonds created in this group are undoubtedly strong. Through all the challenges that have hit the creative community as a whole in the past few years, these students, along with the fierce leadership of Dr. Folta, have truly overcome all with impressive grace and poise. Standing for hours in parking garages during frigid weather to rehearse in a socially distant manner, attending rehearsals over Zoom when quarantined, and even making a point to get vaccinated to better protect their peers, you can truly see the family that has grown in this program. It just proves to me that Voices of the Valley produces a quality of student that is far above caliber, and more importantly to me, a quality friend and member of our creative community.
“I dreamed of freedom, I dreamed of rain.
The ancient pain is forgotten.
The fathers debts are clear.
I dreamed of Heaven, and the Earth sang.”
- I Dreamed of Rain, Jan Garrett