Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Choir camp culminates in free concert

First residential choir camp

For Macie McMichael, Southwestern Michigan College’s first intensive residential Summer Choir Boot Camp previews what she can expect when fall semester starts Sept. 2.

Twenty-six students ages 14 to 18 are spending the week in Keith H. McKenzie Hall.

Camp culminates at 7:30 p.m. Friday when participants perform a free concert in the theatre of the Dale A. Lyons Building on SMC’s Dowagiac campus.

“I love it,” said McMichael, a 2014 Plymouth, Ind., High School graduate. “Our rooms are so nice, like little apartments. I was terrified I would go to college and have a small room with two beds. I can get along with people, but I don’t like to be with people 24/7. I like the fact we can hang out, but have separate rooms, too.”

“I looked at two other schools, but I didn’t like either one of them because I came here first,” said McMichael, an Indiana all-state choir member training for a music therapy career.

The alto already feels comfortable at SMC.

“I’ve never felt so at home in a group of people because we have common interests,” McMichael said. “That’s another reason I wanted to do this camp.”
Lakeshore High School junior Ella Larson followed a different path to camp.

“My second grade teacher was (SMC Director of Choral Activities and Camp Director David) Carew’s wife,” Larson said. “On Facebook, my mom posted a video of me singing and (Debbie) messaged her and said, ‘You should go to this camp.’ I play volleyball and I’m missing four practices to come to this.”
Larson likes science as well as music. After high school, she sees herself in the medical field.

“It’s really incredible to see that one day people here could grow to be that great,” Larson said of singing alongside student counselors Eliza Carpenter, Jason Cope, Danny Ferenczi, Darian Fountain, Isaac James, Hunter Schuur, Kacie Mercer, Chelsea Thompson, Andrew Fisher, Sam Gantt, Josh Bungart and Hannah Davis.

Davis, from Coloma, can relate to her charges because they’re close in age.

Hannah, 18, graduated from SMC in May after finishing high school at 16.

Davis will be attending Aquinas College in Grand Rapids for a degree in music liturgy to “work with small choirs in small private schools.”

Berrien Springs junior Elizabeth Cromwell aspires to be a choir director, too, but in the immediate future the rabbit breeder will be showing at the Berrien County Youth Fair.

Tatyanna Blaylock, whose brother, Jacob, is beginning his second year at SMC in choir and on trombone in band, is passionate about music.

“Music is my entire life,” the Lakeshore senior said. “Yesterday my grandfather died, so I turned to singing to get happy. Music has always been my safe place. I’m coming here for my prerequisites, then I’m going into diagnostics. I’m going to be in the choir and minor in singing on the side so I can support myself and a future family.”

“Sharing music with other people like this is the best thing for me,” Blaylock said. “I love getting the younger generation excited for choir. Staying in a room with Ella, I know someone already and it’s kind of easier. Being in a musical environment is really fun and uplifting.”

If not at camp, Tatyanna would “be at work right now” at Domino’s Pizza. “Other than that, I stay in my room and sing.”

Berrien Springs senior Sebastian Martinez already knows someone, too — his sister, Linnea, a junior.

“I did a couple of shows: ‘Shrek,’ ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Parade.’ Mr. Carew’s a great director and it’s been a lot of fun,” Martinez said. “Living in the dorm makes me really excited for college because I plan on coming here” (for music or psychology). I’m getting a taste of what campus life is like and I really like it.”

Assisting Carew is a nine-member professional staff consisting of: Goshen College guest clinicians Scott Hochstetler and Debra Brubaker; Watervliet Middle School and High School Choral Director Tami Brush, vocal jazz; SMC Adjunct Piano Instructor Marcelo Caceres, collaborative pianist; SMC Director of Theatre Paul Mow, voice instructor; former SMC Adjunct Sarah Gartshore, voice instructor; Elkhart Memorial High School Choir Director Megan Farison, voice instructor; SMC Voice and Music History Adjunct Marcus Roll, voice instructor; and SMC Director of Bands Dr. Jonathan Korzun, musicianship instructor.

After twice-a-day group rehearsals, private voice lessons and sectionals before bedtime at 10:30, campers’ evening activities included game night, a movie in the Student Activity Center and, of course, karaoke.