When you combine men’s choir students from five middle schools and three high schools, you get one very big choir. And a huge opportunity to inspire a lifelong love of music.
At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26, nearly 400 of McKinney ISD’s young men filled the stage at McKinney Boyd High School Auditorium to join voices for the first annual McKinney Men in Concert, a unique event that brought together the men’s choirs from each of McKinney ISD’s secondary campuses. The event was funded largely by a grant from Target.
Led by esteemed guest directors Jeff Rice and Steve Garms, the Combined Men’s Chorus performed a variety of well-received pieces in front of a packed auditorium. The concert was the culmination of weeks of campus-based preparations and a full day of rehearsals at McKinney Boyd High School.
“Our goal for the day is really to instill the love of singing in these guys’ lives, to let them know that singing is a lifelong skill, something that they can enjoy and participate in for a lifetime,” said Rice, who serves as Choir Director at Midway High School in Waco and as President of the State Choral Directors Association.
Rice said that events like McKinney Men in Concert give younger students a chance to see what they can become as they progress through the district’s choir program.
“They can see what these high school guys sound like, and that gives them something to aspire to,” he said.
The concert was conceived last spring by the district’s team of choir directors and came to fruition through a combination of hard work, skillful logistics and financial assistance from Target.
“At [our] team meeting Melissa Logan brought up the idea of doing a McKinney Men’s concert,” said Faubion Middle School Choir Director Jared Critchfield. “With that idea, we had an opportunity to get an art grant from Target.”
So, Critchfield completed the grant application, and in August, the team received the news they had hoped for -- Target had awarded them a $2,000 grant.
“[Target] largely funded most of the music, most of the food and the different types of programming and programs that the boys needed,” said Critchfield.
Steven Nelms, McKinney North High School Director of Choral Music, said that the team had been working toward this event for seven years.
“We started having a McKinney Men’s Chorus with ‘Experience McKinney,’ but it was not its own entity. We performed with other mixed groups,” he said. “But, now we have completed our first all-McKinney Men’s Concert with 380 men.”
And it was a growing experience for not only the younger performers but the older participants as well.
McKinney North senior Jonathan Ford said that he learned more about voice control through the experience.
But asking hundreds of middle and high school guys to move on and offstage in an orderly manner -- while maintaining focus for extended periods of time -- provided lessons beyond vocal skill.
“My biggest take-away was definitely patience,” said McKinney North senior Tommy Capps. “With a group that large, it was hard to keep everyone focused. While perfecting these pieces, I learned to be much more patient.”
And performing with the middle school students? “It was cool to sing with the 7th and 8th grade guys,” said Ford. “They are a bit less focused than us, but we tried to set a good example.”
“It was nice to see the future of the McKinney Men’s Choir,” said Capps. “The middle school men sang really well.”
And with the encouragement the younger students received from the experience, that future seems pretty solid.
“I enjoyed performing with so many people because it was nice to see how many people are participating in choir and how many people are devoted to the choir program,” said Faubion 8th grader Aaron Whitten.
Seventh grader Preston Blair said, “I thought the concert was great just coming together with all of the guys in McKinney and just singing and finding the voice we can make together.”
In Critchfield’s eyes the event was a big success.
“The boys did really well,” he said. “They had a long rehearsal during the day, but we were very impressed and pleased with how they focused and how they came together. And we were thrilled with the way they sang in the concert.”
“What was most gratifying was, because of their hard work, the audience loved what they did and they felt the impact of what McKinney men can do when they sing,” he said.
“It was just a huge community event that I’m glad we got to do. We’re grateful that Target did their part in helping us fund it.”
Photo: Jeff Rice (pictured) and Steve Garms directed the combined men's choirs of MISD during the first annual McKinney Men in Concert. (Photo courtesy of Gunnar Lund)