Lowrie Primary music teacher sings benefits of community choir
Between writing lesson plans and teaching music classes at Lowrie Primary School, John Hillan-Payne hasn't had much time or energy to sing in a choir since college. And even if he did, there isn't a group he could practically join.
"There's some great choirs in Portland, but to be able to teach the next morning, getting home at 9:30, 10 at night doesn't seem quite feasible, and I imagine there's a lot of people in Wilsonville who might feel the same way," he said.
Hoping to sing again and help others discover their voice, Hillan-Payne recently started the nonprofit Wilsonville Choral Arts Society with four other board members. The group already has introduced a children's choir and is preparing an adult choir that Hillan-Payne hopes will begin soon.
"A lot of towns have adult community choirs. West Linn has one. I have a friend in Scappoose; they have a children's choir. They are community-based. I thought that would maybe work great for Wilsonville as well," he said.
The children's choir currently meets at the Wilsonville United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. every Monday. Seven children participated last week, which was the choir's third session.
During the introductory meetings, Hillan-Payne taught kids how to warm up their voices, develop proper vocal mechanics and to sing fall-, holiday- and friendship-themed songs.
"I think that singing is great. I think there's lots of research showing that people who sing tend to be happier. I think singing with people, that is even more magnified than if you are by yourself," Hillan-Payne said.
His goal is for the group to sing at nursing homes and other places during the holiday season, along with performing a concert for parents.
As for the adult choir, Hillan-Payne recently sent out a survey. He said about 20 people expressed interest in joining. His goal for the choir is for it to be an alternative rather than a direct competitor with the I-5 Connection Chorus, which meets at Wilsonville Community Center.
While that choir is filled mainly with retirement-age people and sessions are held in the middle of the workday, the society's adult choir will be catered more toward working-age adults.
"Maybe you could get more kids situated, have dinner and then you can come do choir one day a week," Hillan-Payne said.
The society is working to obtain tax exemption status and eventually would like to hire a director to oversee the adult choir. The majority of the survey respondents were women so Hillan-Payne also is hoping to find men to fill lower-octave vocal roles. All abilities are welcome and joining the choirs costs $100 a year, which goes toward operational expenses.
The board is made up of two music teachers, two parents and a college student.
"We want to make sure that's (college-age) a demographic that is included," Hillan-Payne said.
For those who join the choirs, Hillan-Payne hopes singing will morph from an interest to a lifetime hobby.
"The long-term vision is there is an I-5 Connection and then there's an adult community choir that has 60-plus members and then we have high school choirs and middle choirs and a children's choir," he said. "(We have) the ability to collaborate and show people that singing is a lifetime activity. It's not something we do in school and say goodbye when we graduate."
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