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Music to a community’s ears

The Master’s College offers wide selection of performances, opportunities for community involvement

Posted: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.

The Master’s College in Santa Clarita offers a variety of instructional programs and open-to-the-public performances, including concerts, theatre, a music summer camp and a semester-long piano course for community members.

“There are so many things offered here for the arts,” said Paul Plew, chairman of the music department and the head of choral activities. “You don’t always have to drive down to L.A. to get it.”

Many of the programs and concerts combine community and student participation, bridging a perceived gap to many.

“The college is tucked away in this canyon,” Plew said. “But we get a lot of community involvement and audience from the general public.”

In the past few years, word has gotten out about the best-kept arts secret in the valley, said Sarah Dixon, public relations director for the music department.

“It’s been fun to see the community, over the past few years, be on our campus quite a bit more,” Dixon said. “We have more than 4,000 people coming to our concerts. There really is so much going on.”

The college presents 10 to 12 department concerts that repeat every semester, Plew said. There are three different choirs, 26 individual student recitals and a lot of options for people to choose from.

Department performances
Each department has both a fall and spring counterpart, Plew said.

These performances are made up of different configurations of students, instructors and community members.
“The music at this college is as good as what you would hear anywhere,” Plew said.

Opera Scenes, a perfect example of the talent on campus, is the culmination of a semester-long class. Singing four excerpts from famous works, the performers bring opera to the audience in English, a surprising treat for many, Plew said.

To witness a four grand piano ensemble put on by faculty and alumni, community members can attend the Piano Extravaganza in February and November.

The Women’s Chamber Choir tours throughout the state but can be seen locally in concert in February and September, and the Chamber Orchestra Concert, featuring a student and faculty string orchestra, debuts in April and November.

The Wind Ensemble Concert, a widely attended April and November performance, is a reflection of the college’s relationship with musicians in the community. The ensemble is mostly made up of Master’s students, though students from California State University, Northridge and California Institute of the Arts also perform.

“It’s one of our best-attended concerts of the year,” Plew said.

Bellfest, an April and November handbell concert, is a crowd-pleaser and another invitation for community musicians to join with Master’s.

“There are other handbell choirs around town,” Plew said. “This is a collaborative festival with students, faculty and other community members.”

For many, the largest concerts of the year are the Forest Lawn Spring Concert and the Come ChristmasSing.
Dan Forrest, a well-known composer in the choral world, hosts a reading session and special concert of his works. Later, Master’s students and faculty perform his works during a spring concert the week of Easter.
Equally as noteworthy, the Christmas concert will be in its 31st year this season.

“All the prominent groups, choirs and orchestras perform music from the holidays, ending with a big choral number and a Hallelujah chorus,” Plew said.

If audience members prefer voice to instrument, Master’s offers the Collegiate Singers, as well as the Master’s Chorale Concert, a 60-person concert choir that has toured at Carnegie Hall and performed for the United Nations in Geneva.

“That choir is up with any university-level choir,” Plew said.

In addition to the concerts, center stage also lights up with campus talent for two plays by the theatre department, one in March and one in October.

In an audience of 1,300, Plew said, about half were community members.

Students in the community
In addition to the vast number of departmental performances, students have other avenues to showcase their work while reaching out to the community.

Junior and senior students hold individual recitals, open to the public, with a range in music and style as wide as the range in their individual strengths and passions.

“You’ll hear all different kinds of music,” Plew said of the, on average, 20 concerts held each year, “from classical guitar to a piano euphonium.”

While music is a gift many Master’s students have to offer the community, they can reach out in other ways than a recital.

Piano Kids is a yearlong program that gives students the chance to teach and the community a chance to learn.
Each week, children ages 7 to 10 years old take an individual lesson with a Master’s student and a group lesson with an instructor, Plew said.

“It’s great because the kids get both the individual instruction and the group practice in one program,” Plew said.
During the summer, Master’s opens up to the array of aspiring musicians with Songs of Summer, a June music camp for kids ages 10 to 16 years old.

“The students work on voice lessons, drama improvisation, choir,” Plew said. “They learn how to smile. They learn how to bow.”

The program culminates with a public performance for family and friends.

Still other avenues exist for community involvement, and Master’s students often come back to take advantage.
“Graduates end up staying in the community,” Plew said. “That’s why we love to bring the community back to our campus.”


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