My experience with the Blue Ridge School music program can only be described as dynamic. I came to BRS as a sophomore who already loved to sing, and I was in no way disappointed with what I encountered the first day I stepped in the door. I walked up to the music table (somewhat nervously, I might add) and was greeted by the then-choir director Jerry King, who immediately welcomed me with open arms without knowing if I was world-class or tone deaf.
Soon after, I met Mike Vinson, the band director, and a few days later, rehearsals began. There was only one slight problem. I didn’t have the time in my schedule for choir. Without hesitation, Mr. King offered to work with me in his free time, so that I could still participate in the choir that I was so obviously enthusiastic about. He almost immediately became like a grandfather to me. He was always there with advice, whether it was related to music or life. Moving forward, I was also tutored by Mr. Vinson. I was lucky enough to get to know him during my third trimester when I signed up for In School Suspension (our band). He has a degree as a vocalist, a tenor no less, and was more than willing to help me hit the high notes I was always given, as I was often the only first tenor in the choir.
Along with this top-notch instruction, we had some truly incredible opportunities, including singing Christmas carols in Ruckersville, seeing Ingolf Wunder in concert at Monticello, attending a Chopin concert held at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, and later, traveling to Boston to compete in a national competition. There, our band received second place and our choir was awarded a Maestro Award for Outstanding Soloist.
During my junior and senior years, Mr. King and I put aside some time to focus on my personal repertoire, as I was planning on auditioning for the music programs of several different universities. For winning the Vocal Music award my sophomore year, Mr. King had bought me a book of Italian arias. So, we started working. Soon, the time came for my audition for High Point University, my first-choice school. There was a small issue, however. I was in Virginia. The audition was in North Carolina.
Mr. King drove.
I graduated from Blue Ridge with two underclassman vocal music awards, the DeAngelis Vocal Music Award, and a Maestro Award. I was accepted into High Point’s music program, and into their top ensemble, the Chamber Singers. We are touring abroad at the moment, giving concerts in Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
I was told by my director that he and his colleagues who had auditioned me were surprised that I was able to learn the level of music that I had for my audition without a voice teacher. But I know how I was able to learn the music that I did. Without the kind of dedicated, personalized instruction I got from the music faculty at BRS, I would never have made it to where I am today.
I would say…because Blue Ridge School is an all-boys school it really was easier to focus on academics, not just because girls would be distracting, but the entire approach is more tailored for boys. As for the music program…I’ve never had a choir with less drama, haha.