Two WOU Ensembles Named Finalists for Prestigious Awards

Western Oregon Chamber Singers pose in front of a large sign that reads "WOU" in red font. The 25 members are wearing black dresses or black dress shirts with red ties. They are standing outside, and there are multiple trees with bright green leaves in the background.

The above photograph is of Western Oregon University Chamber Singers. 

Western Oregon University is home to many talented musicians. With 14 different ensembles, WOU is bursting with musical performers from many different backgrounds, all showcasing their unique talents. Recently, two of these ensembles were awarded as finalists in prestigious categories: Western Oregon University Chamber Singers was chosen as a finalist for the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music, and Western Oregon Voices was chosen as a finalist for the American Prize in Choral Performance. This is the first time either ensemble has been named a finalist in their respective categories. 

According to the Director of Choral Activities, Dr. James Reddan, Western Oregon University Chamber Singers is a group that “focuses primarily on performing a cappella choral works from across choral history with a focus on advanced musicality and musicianship.” Western Oregon Voices is “the smallest choral ensemble at WOU with 12 singers and three members of the rhythm section. The ensemble focuses primarily on vocal jazz from all jazz genres in addition to other contemporary styles.”

Western Oregon Voices posed outside on a rock wall. The 15 members are all wearing black dress pants, black dress shirts, and red ties.
Western Oregon Voices

Reddan has been the director of both choral ensembles, as well as Concert Choir, since fall 2018. He mentioned that being awarded as finalists for these two awards is “a great honor and recognition of the outstanding work that these amazing students have done over the past two years. Regardless of the result, being recognized for excellence in their craft at the national level is truly an honor and demonstrates the students’ ambition, diligence, musicianship, and dedication to excellence in choral music.” 

Noah Miller, a sophomore Music Education major and member of both choral ensembles, said that, “especially with the way winter term ended and then hearing that we’d be singing remotely for spring term, knowing that our hard work has been recognized by The American Prize is awesome. Not only that, but it shows that Dr. Reddan feels confident in putting us out there for others to see.”

The American Prize is a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing the best performers, ensembles, and composers in the United States. Applicants submit recordings, which are then reviewed by a panel of esteemed judges who select semi-finalists, finalists, and then winners within each category. 

The Ernst Bacon Memorial Award is named after the late composer Ernst Bacon, and is dedicated to recognizing and rewarding performances of American music, worldwide. Western Oregon University Chamber Singers was selected as a finalist for this prize in the college/university division, alongside ensembles from University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of Central Florida; University of Oklahoma; and others. The ensemble was one of only three choral ensembles awarded as finalists. Western Oregon Voices was selected as a finalist for the American Prize in Choral Performance within the college/university division, and was the only West Coast ensemble to be named a finalist. This prize is dedicated to recognizing outstanding choral performances in the United States. Other finalists include choruses from East Carolina University; University of South Dakota; Baylor University; University of Massachusetts; and Western Illinois University. 

Each ensemble is open to all students, regardless of major or class year. There is an audition process, which is done by appointment at the beginning of the school year, and at the end of each term during the registration period. Reddan mentioned that for the auditions, “students will do a short exercise to find their usable range both high and low, complete a short rhythmic and melodic sight reading, and quick exercise to test their ear. Additionally, for Western Oregon Voices, students will do an improvisation over a short 12-bar blues pattern just to test their comfort level with vocal improvisation.” If you’re interested in joining either ensemble, keep an eye out for audition dates and times for fall term, which will be posted prior to the beginning of the upcoming term. You can follow Western Oregon University Choral Music Department on Facebook to stay up to date with upcoming events, performances, and auditions. 

Congratulations to both ensembles for this exceptional achievement!

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