Joining in harmony

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

Heather Vest said the best thing about directing Eastern New Mexico Children’s Choir is that all of her participants are excited to be there.

It’s certainly the case for 10-year-old Emma Lazara of Clovis because no matter where she lives in the country, music is the one universal art that will remain constant in her life.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune Choir participants play a name game to get to know one another better as they warm up for their first rehearsal.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune
Choir participants play a name game to get to know one another better as they warm up for their first rehearsal.

“I love singing, I always have,” said Lazara, who belongs to a military family and moved to Clovis from Rhode Island about a year ago.

Lazara and the other children engaged in exercises that tested rhythm and vocal ability Tuesday at the first choir practice of the semester.

“I’m really excited about how much I get to be involved in my music and singing. It’s what I love to do,” said Lazara who also plays piano and saxophone. “I want to just get better at my singing techniques and just have fun.”

Vest started the choir in the fall of 2010 and wanted to give children in Portales and surrounding communities a musical experience that larger cities typically have.

She said in addition to growing as a choir, she’s also seen progress in the choir’s musical ability.

“My number one goal is for them to become good singers,” Vest said. “We definitely focus on learning to read music, proper techniques and being intelligent musically.”

Lacy Lesly, 8, is also a new face in the choir this year but has been singing country music for three years. Lesly is a student of Vest’s in Melrose and wanted to join the choir to perfect her craft.

“I’m here for the experience and I’m just excited for everything,” said Lesly whose favorite singer is Carrie Underwood. “I’m happy I’m here.”

Vest said she’s impressed by the background her students are bringing to the choir.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune Eastern New Mexico Children’s Choir participants clap along during an exercise at their first rehearsal Tuesday.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune
Eastern New Mexico Children’s Choir participants clap along during an exercise at their first rehearsal Tuesday.

“It elevates the level of music we’re able to accomplish. Everyone in my choir has chosen to be here and that sets them up for unprecedented success,” Vest said. “It’s the attitude of wanting to create and wanting to learn and performing with others.”

Eliana Avila, 9, of Portales said she returned to the choir for another semester because she loves singing with the group.

“It’s fun and you get to sing a lot and it’s really fun to hang out with the choir ‘cause we’re always doing something,” said Avila, who loves to listen to Justin Timberlake.

Avila said she learned how to hold her breath for a long time last year. This year she’s looking forward to learning more techniques and making new friends.

David Struthers, 13, of Clovis said he also learned to hold his breath last year in choir. He said his friends were the reason he joined, but the music is what brought him back.

“I like the songs that we did,” Struthers said.

Vest said she loves that the children get to come to Eastern New Mexico University’s campus to practice, just an added bonus for participants.

“I think it lifts their aspirations for higher education and higher learning,” Vest said. “It makes them comfortable in that environment and they’re already familiar with the school, especially if they want to pursue music for a career.”

Late registration for the Eastern New Mexico Children’s Choir for the fall semester will be extended through Sept. 17.

  • Who: Children in grades 3-8 from Roosevelt and Curry counties.
  • When: 5:30 p.m., on Tuesdays.
  • Where: Eastern New Mexico University’s Choir Room in the Music Building.
  • Cost: $100 for the semester
  • Information: 562-2371 or email heather.vest@enmu.edu.

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