K-State hosts prestigious 40th Summer Choral Institute

Conductor Julie Yu looks puzzled as she discusses a problem with the women's choir class on February 19, 2013. (Archive Photo | Collegian Media Group)

“Love, sweet love.”

That was the theme of this year’s concerts performed by the 40th Summer Choral Institute students, who were directed by Julie Yu-Oppenheim, associate professor and co-director of choral studies at Kansas State.

The choir of standout high school singers from across the nation performed four free concerts last week between Manhattan and Kansas City: first at K-State’s All Faiths Chapel Thursday evening, and then on Friday at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka.

“We celebrate that momentous event that, of course, changed education in the United States drastically,” Yu-Oppenheim said.

The choir performed twice Saturday, starting at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for the Juneteenth Festival — which honors black history — and ending at the Unity Temple on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

The program consisted of 12 songs; instructors sang two, and two student pianists performed memorized solo pieces. Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2 by Frederic Chopin, played by student Max Cooper of Lenexa, Kansas, was the first of the two to earn a thunderous ovation.

“Young pianists that especially collaborate with others is not very prevalent anymore,” Yu-Oppenheim said. “People are not necessarily growing up in the church playing hymns and things like that, nor taking a lot of piano lessons frankly, because to play that well takes a lot of practicing, a lot of self determination and inspiration, perspiration. Those type of things.”

The Summer Choral Institute chose 40 high schoolers from 13 states this year. Over the course of six days and five nights the singers spent in Manhattan, they intensively rehearsed between private coaching lessons and full classrooms and participated in team exercises at the K-State Challenge Course.

The Master Teacher Institute for the Arts based in Manhattan sponsors the summer program alongside K-State. According to the Summer Choral Institute website, the choir has performed on the wing of a space shuttle and at the Symphony in the Flint Hills with the Kansas City Symphony in front of a crowd 7,000 people strong.