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Soar Spotlight: Kurtis Reif '18

The Choral Village

Major: Music Education and Music Composition
Hometown: Fogelsville, PA
Advisor: Joy Hirokawa

Briefly describe your project.

Dr. Joy Hirokawa and I completed a literature review on the basis of previously completed research on the subject of children’s choirs and their links to social justice issues. The research we read and catalogued spanned from studies in neuroscience to reports on established national children’s choirs and many more fields as they applied to our mission. As part of our active research, we took part in rehearsals of three large children’s choirs from New York, Chicago and Jerusalem. We also visited the American Choral Directors Association’s Summer Conference in New Jersey where noted composer and civil rights activist Dr. Ysaye Barnwell gave several lectures on civil rights protests and choral techniques. The goal of this literature review is to use our findings for curriculum and techniques in order to best run a one-week program in July 2016. As fall and spring of the 2015-2016 academic year continue we intend to develop a plan and prepare for the camp.

Why did you decide to turn your idea into a SOAR project?

Dr. Hirokawa approached me about the idea of running a children’s choir camp for middle school age students with a social justice mission. The project was then adapted for SOAR to better fit our needs, and we delayed the running of the camp a year.

How did your faculty advisor guide you through your research?

When conversations can happen freely and come from an authentic concern—instead of merely repeating the words of the articles we read—was when our research and overall discussion flourished. Dr. Hirokawa has a strong passion for social justice through the art form of music, and I found it compelling and inspiring to work along side her strong beliefs and excitement about the topic at hand.

What was your biggest obstacle?

Our biggest obstacle was a lack of funding to support running our tuition-free camp. This obstacle was overcome by adjusting the timeline of the project and deciding to take a literature review approach to design our camp.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

I feel that, through this project, I have gained a greater social awareness and understanding of how my field can better be applied to issues of social justice. I was always aware of the potency of music in a choral setting, but now have a better understanding of why that is so important in social conflict.

What was the result of your project? Was it congruent with your hypothesis?

This project does not have any tangible results until we assess the effectiveness of our camp in July 2016, at which point we plan on writing a paper to compile all our findings from SOAR. We collected ample research as expected and, while most articles aligned with expectations, we were sometimes surprised by our findings.

Will you expand on your research after this summer is over? If so, where would you like to see it go?

The initial goals of this project continue into the 2015-2016 academic year as well as the 2016 summer. We plan as the year continues to develop curriculum and begin administrative aspects of running a camp as well as the actual program in July 2016.