ONU’s University Singers embark on a whirlwind 38-day national summer choir tour.
For many Ohio Northern University students, summer is a time of rest and relaxation. For others, it’s the time to gain real-world experience in their fields through rewarding internship opportunities. Some even choose to forego any notion of downtime by enrolling in summer classes or studying abroad.
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First stop: Cincinnati, Ohio
The city from aboard a riverboat on the mighty Mississippi.
A real, honest-to-goodness chuck wagon breakfast.
Ozona, Texas is Ada's sister city.
But rarely do students have the summer experience awaiting the members the University Singers on the ONU National Choir Tour 2013.
The numbers alone are staggering: Almost 8,000 miles. 38 students. 38 days. 31 performances. 26 states. For five weeks, a collection of ONU’s most talented students is traveling the highways and byways of America, performing choral concerts at churches and schools and introducing people along the way to Ohio Northern University.
“Wherever we go, people are going to hear fabulous music by some really special students who are going to represent our University in a wonderful way,” says Dr. Ben Ayling, choral director and assistant professor of music.
Touring in itself is nothing new for the University Singers. Last March, they toured New Zealand, and they have performed overseas a combined 11 times. However, those tours were seven- to 10-day tours, not 38. This tour is, by far, the most ambitious to date for Ohio Northern.
It’s also a bit of a passion project for Ayling, who went on a national summer tour in 1977 as a college sophomore and, to this day, considers it one the highlights of his life.
“For me, it just gave me a wanderlust for traveling both internationally and here in the United States. Over these five weeks, these students will see more of our country than they will likely see over the rest of their lives. It’s truly a life-changing experience, and I’m thrilled to get to share it with my students,” he says.
Follow the tour on Twitter! #onuchoirtour
Crossing the mighty Mississippi! #onuchoirtour— Rebecca Wilden (@RebeccaWilden) May 18, 2013
Remember The Alamo! Driving into San Antonio now! #onuchoirtour— Rebecca Wilden (@RebeccaWilden) May 19, 2013
Ozona, Texas is the sister city of Ada, Ohio. It's small, they have nothing to do, and there is nothing else around it! #ONUChoirTour— C.J. Brincefield(@CJBrincefield) May 20, 2013
Just passed into Arizona! #ONUChoirTour— C.J. Brincefield(@CJBrincefield) May 22, 2013
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The tour itinerary looks more like a AAA TripTik than a concert schedule, with stops at Mammoth Cave National Park; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans, La.; Roswell, N.M.; Carlsbad Cavern; The Grand Canyon, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park; Puget Sound; Yellowstone National Park; Mt. Rushmore; to name but a few. The tour will also have free days in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for students to take in the sights.
“It sounds kind of corny, but I am really looking forward to going to Disneyland,” says Alexa Lammers, a freshman public relations and musical theatre major from Tipp City, Ohio. “I asked for a ticket for my birthday this year, so I’m going on our day off with a few friends.”
Lammers is also looking forward to the trip itself, even if it does mean 38 days on a bus with 40 other people.
“You know those road trips you took as a kid, and how you and your friends all sat in the back seat, and you just have these great inside jokes from being on the road?” she says. “Well, we get to do that for 38 days, so just imagine all the memories we are going to make.”
Ohio Northern University prides itself on many things, but two of the most important are its passion for providing students with opportunities for experiential learning and its reputation for producing well-rounded students. The choir tour is a good example of those two pieces in perfect harmony.
The University Singers aren’t just music majors. There are majors from all four of ONU’s undergraduate colleges on this tour. At Northern, students can major in a challenging academic field and still pursue their passions. They can even spend five weeks in the summer pursuing them all across the country.
The tour will be a learning experience as well. Apart from all they will learn about America, the tour will also turn them into better singers. They will be singing six days a week, including performances and rehearsals, a heavy workload for any choir. According to Ayling, it will drastically change the way his students sing.
“It’s going to raise the bar,” he says. “By the time we get even one third of the way through this trip, they are going to be a better singing choir than probably any choir they’ve ever been in. And by the time we are finished, they will have transcended most choirs anywhere, period.”
As a pure exercise in singing, Ayling says there is no way to replicate what this tour will do for the University Singers, and he is already excited for the fall when the students return after having this experience.
“Every one of them will want to have that same performance level, and they’ll work hard for it,” he says. “They’ll push themselves. They’ll push each other to get back there.”
But first things first. There are still a few dozen states to go.
In addition to Twitter, follow the choir tour on Tumblr at http://alexalammers.tumblr.com/ for daily updates.