Bob Lawson

The Cal Poly Choirs’ music resonates fair and wide not just because of the vocal abilities of its singers, but also because singers themselves come together from colleges and majors around the university.

The music department’s Cal Poly Choirs consists of three vocal ensembles: Polyphonics, The University Singers and The Early Music Ensemble. Surprisingly, music majors make up a small portion of the choir participants.

“I love it here because I do have this mix of students and many of our non-majors have as beautiful voices as our music majors,” said Thomas Davies, conductor and director of choral activities and vocal studies who has been at Cal Poly for 27 years.

“That’s what this department is all about,” he added. “It’s for getting all these vast varieties of students, which we have on this campus, involved and many of them become lifelong friends, and they are not all in the same department.”

Although there is a difference in majors among the choir students, they are all there for the same reason; they love to sing. Being able to come together and share this common interest has not only been a pleasure for the professors, but the students, as well.

“Singing with a group is such an amazing experience,” said industrial engineering senior Jonathan Eipper, who is a member of both Polyphonics and The University Singers.

“Singing with other people who know what they’re doing and hearing the harmonies blend is such a wonderful feeling every day.”

Polyphonics is a 45 to 48 member group that performs everything from folk songs to spirituals, to music based on poems. The University Singers is made up of 70 to 80 students, but has had up to 100 members, and primarily performs works for larger ensembles. The Early Music Ensemble, an 8 to 12 member group, performs works that date back before 1800.

“We certainly have a lot of diverse genres that we go through,” Eipper said.

Eipper, who was born and raised in Texas, came to Cal Poly for engineering. He grew up playing the trumpet and joined choir in high school. Like many high school graduates, he did not think he would sing again, until he realized his passion for music did not fade. He involved himself in choir his freshman year and is glad he did.

“It’s definitely been one of the best choices I’ve made at Cal Poly,” Eipper said. “It’s certainly a freedom from engineering at the end of the day when I go to choir and go home on a happy note.”

Other students turn to the choirs as a release for tension. Music senior Chloe Gill, graphic communications senior, looks to singing as an outlet.

“I think a lot of people come into choir to get away from the rigid expectations of their classes,” said Gill, who is a member of Polyphonics. “It’s really fun to be able to have a time where we can all do something that’s really opposite from our normal everyday classes and our normal everyday schedules.”

“It heals you,” she added. “It’s just so beneficial to a crazy, stressed out Cal Poly student.”

Cal Poly Choirs is open to everyone regardless of their singing experience.

“Cultures all across the world (sing) all the time with their friends and family without any kind of embarrassment,” said Gill. “It’s something as a culture we really don’t do and we should.”

“If every student who was here gave up because they can’t sing high notes like Mariah Carey, we’d have nobody do it,” added Davies. “We have a group of really talented people here who have something to say through their music.”

Gill, originally from Seattle, began singing in her first choir at age 12. She has been a member of Polyphonics since her freshman year and has participated in every performance. Her parents have even flown in from Washington a number of times to see her perform and have always supported her decision to sing.

“I probably wouldn’t have come this far with singing if they hadn’t,” Gill said.

Davies can’t remember a time when he did not sing. As a piano major in college, he sang in college groups and eventually found his calling in conducting. He received his Bachelor of Music Education, his master’s degree and doctorate of musical arts in choral conducting from the University of Southern California. He has taught at Cal Poly ever since.

“I just love being here. We enjoy each other as a faculty, we like getting up, coming to work, and the main reason is because we have such neat students,” said Davies.

Cal Poly Choirs’ first concert entitled “American Idols” will be held on Oct. 25. The program will feature American music and the work of composers that worked during the Revolutionary War Period. Spirituals, which came from African American tradition and typically a religious background, will be included, as well as classical and folk pieces, all of which deal with music from this country.

The holiday season is always popular for choir performances and the annual “A Christmas Celebration” event is right around the corner. It will be held on Dec. 6 and tickets should be purchased well in advance. The Christmas concert is particularly popular because it features carols, which audience members can sing along to. All performances take place in the Performing Arts Center.

Auditions for Cal Poly Choirs are held at the beginning of each quarter. For more information, visit the music department located in the H.P. Davidson Music building.

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