CHARLESTON — Move over “American Idol,” the singers from the S.C. Elementary Honor Choir will show you how it’s done. There is no squabbling or diva-like behavior here. It’s just the pure, beautiful voices of children who love to sing.
The choir, 244 of them from all over the state, came together Feb. 7 to perform at the annual convention of the S.C. Music Educators Association held in North Charleston.
St. Anne School in Sumter had six students audition for a spot in the group, and all of them made it, said Linda Coyne, music teacher.
In all, 74 schools had students selected to sing in the choir. St. Anne was the only Catholic school this year, although Coyne said others have participated in the past.
She said they usually have about 400 children audition, and take an average of 200, although that number varies depending on who the clinician is.
The guest clinician this year is Susan Messer. She lives in Atlanta and teaches middle school chorus and general music at Ridgeview Charter School in the Fulton County public school district. Messer has been involved professionally in music education and church music for over 25 years.
St. Anne, under the direction of Coyne, has participated in the state honor choir for 11 years.
“We’re very blessed to have Mrs. Coyne,” said Janet Caldwell, whose daughter Rachel is in the choir. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without her.”
The parents also credit Kristi Doyle, St. Anne’s principal, with making choir an important part of the educational experience. Lisa Floyd said she drives 30 minutes so her son, Oscar, can attend the school and be part of the choir program.
Along with Rachel Caldwell and Oscar Floyd, the other students from St. Anne who made the state singing group are Riley Fast, Casey Doyle, and Gus and Max deMayo.
Doyle said they always announce the winners during a special school assembly, and this year was particularly joyful because all six students who tried out made it. As principal, Doyle said she is especially blessed because she is able to witness something even the parents don’t see.
“We watch the kids learn the music and see them gain such a tremendous amount of confidence,” she said.
The music they learn forces them to step out of their comfort zone, which doesn’t come easy for all the students. Some parents said their children enjoy singing in a group, but would not perform solo.
“Being in a group, especially this size, your voice is contributing to this beautiful wall of sound,” Floyd said.
Auditions for the choir were held last fall. The students who made it began rehearsing immediately at their individual schools.
“The result is  kids who sing like angels,” Coyne said. “It’s so glorious because it’s all natural. They don’t use microphones. What they produce is what you get.”
Coyne said the students, who are in fourth through sixth grade, sing in three-part harmony in several languages.
Some of the music for this year’s event included “Stars Are For Those Who Lift Their Eyes,” “Music In You,” “Mrs. Snipkin & Mrs. Wobble-Chin,” and “J’Entends Le Moulin.”
The students arrived Feb. 5 for registration and their first rehearsal as a complete group. They spent all day Feb. 6 in rehearsal, and performed for the state music educators, their parents, and others on Feb. 7.