Enriching lives and spreading joy
COLUMBIA, Mo 8/28/14 (Profile) -- Coaxing, encouraging, and lifting young voices into the spirit of song is the artistic work of Heart Beat Artists of the Month for September, Emily Edgington Andrews and Jazzmond "Jazz" Rucker.   

Respectively, the girls and boys choir conductors for the Columbia Youth Choirs (CYC), Andrews and Rucker delighted standing-room-only audiences last year -- the choir's first year -- with selections from the charted heights of popular hits to the deep waters of spiritual soul.  

An extension of the adult Columbia Chorale, CYC trains and features youth in grades 2-10 of any ability level.   The choirs' goal, Andrews explains, is to bring the ensemble art of choir -- aka choral music -- to young people, their families, and the broader community.  

Starting October 26, this year's season promises to do just that. "It's is as diverse as its first year, with many exciting performances planned in a variety of venues around the community," Andrews explains.  
Six concerts will feature seasonal and holiday tunes;  songs that "have cried out against inequality, poverty, and war, and in support of civil and human rights"; music from shores afar; and a special treat -- Carmina Burana -- which promises a seemless melding of voice, stage, instruments, and movement. 

A Hannibal native who grew up in Kansas, Andrews -- who also directs the adult Columbia Chorale -- played volleyball and basketball in high school.   At Truman State University under then-choral director Paul Crabb, her musical interests blossomed.   She earned undergrad and graduate music degrees, and followed Crabb when he left to direct the choral program at Mizzou. 

A Columbia resident since, Andrews is the Fine Arts Department Chair and vocal music teacher at Columbia Independent School.   She's also directed the Sacred Heart Catholic Church choir for nearly a decade.  

The director of vocal arts for Battle High School (video above; click here if not visible) the aptly-named Jazz Rucker is a Mizzou music education grad who grew up in Moberly.  He made a full-on commitment to music in high school, joining the ultra-competitive the American Choral Directors Association's National High School Honor Choir; singing and acting in musicals; and meeting an inspiration for his future:  African-American choral director Jeffrey Redding.  
Rucker also performed opera in college, and after graduation, taught music at Lange Middle School where, during his first year, he was cast as the bloodthirsty lead in Columbia Entertainment Company's production of Dracula

The team of Rucker and Andrews uses the energy of children to inspire better performances and rouse audiences (this writer's son has participated in CYC).  Starting September 7, their singers will rehearse and perform in one of five different ensembles, up from four during the previous season

"Each choir has its own primary conductor, but several of the artistic staff, myself included, will 'float' between ensembles providing additional assistance as needed," Andrews says.    

The PRIMO CHOIR (GRADES 2-3) introduces choral music to the youngest ensemble.  CHORISTERS (GRADES 4-5) advances vocal technique and musicianship.   BOYS’ CHOIR (GRADES 6-10) -- Rucker's specialty -- focuses on vocal development in the male voice, especially as it changes with the teenage years.   

Andrews conducts both the GIRLS’ CHOIR (GRADES 6-10), "designed for young ladies to foster expressive singing habits"; and CANTA BELLA (GRADES 6-10), "a more intense and accelerated vocal experience" for young women.

As Heart Beat Artists of the Month, Rucker and Andrews join a stellar group that includes actor-directors Emily Adams and Elizabeth Braaten Palmieri; painters Marilyn Cummins, Rodney Burlingame, Byron Smith, Kate Gray, and Catherine Parke; actor-director Ed Hanson; mixed media artists Jenny McGee and Lizzie Bryan; photographer Anastasia Pottinger; and Missouri Symphony maestro Kirk Trevor.
"We truly believe arts organizations like ours are an asset to our community, enriching lives and spreading joy," Andrews says.    

-- Mike Martin