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River East musicians benefit from scholarship

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River East Collegiate choral director Nicole Ens shows off her composition of the Gershwin tune I've Got Rhythm on her iPad alongside Grade 12 student Maria Andersson.

PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON Enlarge Image

River East Collegiate choral director Nicole Ens shows off her composition of the Gershwin tune I've Got Rhythm on her iPad alongside Grade 12 student Maria Andersson. Photo Store

River East Collegiate choral director Nicole Ens was on the other end of instruction this summer.

Thanks to a partial scholarship from Sing Canada Harmony, Ens and Grade 12 student Maria Andersson were both afforded the opportunity to attend week-long music camps co-ordinated by instructors at Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa.

Ens took the Jazz Theory Boot Camp, where she was assigned to do a vocal jazz arrangement of the Gershwin tune I’ve Got Rhythm. Each instructor was able to record eight measures of the arrangement in order to get a sense of how it was sounding.

"I was just hoping to finish it, to be able to do it," Ens said, noting she’s done choral arrangements before, though this was her first vocal jazz arrangement. "I was hoping to do it, to know if I could."

Ens said she plans to use her arrangement in class this year.

Andersson said her training provided opportunity to work on both her solo and ensemble vocals.

"The big takeaway for me is singing solo with a combo," Andersson said. "That’s something through school, the way that it is, you don’t get a lot of experience with.

"It makes you step out of your comfort zone, which is always good for singers, especially when you’re starting out."

The North Kildonan resident said instruction was intense, as classes generally went from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute in the West End. During the first three evenings, each of the approximately 25 singers would perform a solo piece they’d been working on that day.

Andersson’s main musical passion isn’t singing, though, as she’s more interested in pursuing saxophone and flute. She said her experience at the vocal camps will help her playing.

"Through voice, you learn a lot of musical techniques. It helps your tuning, and you learn to listen to what’s going on around you," she said. "Sometimes you learn to imitate your instrument with your voice, and sometimes, your voice is the instrument. It goes both ways."

It was Andersson’s second time at the camp, and she appreciated the smaller enrolment — 25 as opposed to approximately 40 last time — in order to get more one-on-one time with instructors.

The scholarship was focused on what its recipients would bring to the local community. Andersson has started private teaching, and also hopes to pass along her knowledge to audition groups she’s part of.

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