PSD Choir Festival blending voices of students


Karen Lovett, KP News

Thirty Key Peninsula school students, who have been selected by their choir directors, will join 240 representatives from four middle schools and two high schools at the Peninsula School District Choir Festival, taking place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3, at the Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor.

Clinician Bruce Brownell will be coming from the Portland area to rehearse with the students in an all-day preparation for the free concert.

This annual event has been taking place for about 14 years, and school directors help keep things in order on festival day.

Gig Harbor High School choir teacher Wayne Lackman has been involved since the beginning. He has been the coordinator for the Choir Festival for the past three years, and will coordinate a band festival coming in November.

Lackman holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and continued his graduate studies at Portland State University. He received his principal and administrative certifications from the University of Washington, Tacoma. He is primarily a vocalist, but plays guitar, piano and bass.

Peninsula High School choir director Alison Ellis was the winner of the Mid-South District Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions and has had an extensive career in opera and music –– singing with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

Ellis was born in Saudi Arabia to an American family who lived all over the world, wherever her father worked in the oil industry. In the U.S., they lived in Utah, Texas, Montana, Georgia, Tennessee and several other states. She came to Washington where her husband is a pastor. After a long break as a homemaker, she began teaching for the first time. They lived on the Key Peninsula for two years, but moved closer to the high school across the bridge in Purdy.

When she came to Peninsula High School three years ago, the choir had 17 members. This year, that number has grown to approximately 100. She is sending two groups to the festival from the high school this year; an all-girls group and another mixed choir.

“I try to encourage kids who aren’t fitting in so well in other aspects,” Ellis said. “We have a very diverse choir: athletes, fringe kids. Kids are the best advertising for us. They get out and tell their friends,” Ellis said.

She takes a high school choir on an all the Key Peninsula school concerts tour. They sing at all the grade schools and middle schools to encourage younger kids, seeing big payoffs down the road, she added. Her first year as choir director, she had one freshman student. This year, more than 30 freshmen came in from middle school. About one fourth of the students are seniors, she said.

The choir meets every day in the afternoon. One group meets after school in the choir room. “So many kids came to one class the fire marshal made us move 20 to another class,” Ellis said. “The kids are really fired up.”

They perform at the school in concerts for fall and spring. They also sing at community events and sang at McCaw Hall, in Seattle, for the Nutcracker opera.

During the event, Ellis said that everyone wears black and white.

There is no central theme at the Choir Festival, which will feature a variety of music. Each of the three groups: elementary, middle and high school, will perform three songs. Then they will all sing together for the final two numbers.



Where: Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, 7700 Skansie Avenue, Gig Harbor. Contact: Judy Williamson, When: 7 p.m., Feb. 3[/box]