Bemidji State University’s Department of Music and Dr. Jennifer Olson, assistant professor of music at Bemidji State, hosted more than 150 high school singers March 15 for the second annual BSU Sings! Day.
The singers, representing five Minnesota schools, joined BSU faculty and students for a day of music theory and rehearsals before participating in a 4 p.m. recital.
At the recital, students joined the Bemidji Choir, directed by Dr. Dwight Jilek, professor of music and director of choral activities, and performed three pieces. The recital, which lasted about 45 minutes, culminated with the debut performance of “The Frozen Man”, composed specifically for BSU Sings! Day by Dr. James Bowyer, associate professor of music at BSU.
See our separate story on “The Frozen Man,” which includes a video of part of the performance.
“This gave Bemidji audiences a rare opportunity to hear what a 200-person choir sounds like,” Olson said.
BSU Sings! Day began in 2022 with 80 students from four high schools participating. This year’s BSU Sings! Day schools included TrekNorth from Bemidji; Grand Rapids High School; Falls High School; Clearbook-Gonvick High School; and Chanhassen High School.
Olson was interviewed on Bemidji’s ChatAbout radio program prior to BSU Sings! Day; that interview is archived and available online.
Four of the five schools participate in Olson’s BSU Sings! program, which provides online vocal music educational resources to more than 44,000 high school choir students in 23 states.
About BSU Sings! Day
Students visiting for BSU Sings! Day spent the day working with BSU music faculty on theory and technique in addition to rehearsing their pieces for the afternoon recital.
Jilek provided workshops on two pieces of choral music in four rotating sessions, with students separating into groups by voice type — alto, soprano, tenor and bass. Students also participated in master classes with either Olson or Dr. Cory Renbarger, professor of music, and received instruction in rhythm from Eric Sundeen, adjunct instructor of music.
Prior to the recital, students were able to ask BSU students who are members of the Bemidji Choir questions about their experiences in a university-level choir and as college students.
About BSU Sings! video series
In Fall 2020, Dr. Jennifer Olson wanted some way to continue delivering music to high school students across the United States in spite of the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning. Her idea — BSU Sings!, a video series that would allow students to continue learning about singing and participate in choir activities while learning in a virtual world.
“BSU Sings! offered BSU the chance to reach into the void and provide a desperately needed service to music educators,” Olson said.
The video series has since developed into a full-service resource for music educators, which as of February 2023 was reaching more than 44,000 students representing more than 500 high school choirs in 23 states.
Olson says BSU Sings! provides valuable resources for high school choir instructors at all levels — videos can be used to supplement instruction on days when a class has a substitute teacher, or as curriculum supplements for certain subjects or to allow students to have additional learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
Olson said that BSU Sings! materials also help participating high school teachers demonstrate technology use standards for their professional development plans.
“There are 52 videos, and we encourage people to use them however they want,” Olson said.