Men of Song festival idea now reality for PSU choral director

Story posted October 25, 2012 in News by Kimberly Valarezo

UNIVERSITY PARK -- On Saturday more than 40 boys in grades 8-12 will join with the Penn State Glee Club for its first Men of Song festival.  For Christopher Kiver, Penn State’s director of choral activities, it’s an idea finally brought to life.

The festival’s goal is to allow teenage boys who are in choirs and whose voices are changing or have changed to “experience what it’s like to sing in a collegiate men’s choir, so they can see that the older men are still singing through college,” Kiver said.

Kiver said he first heard of the festival idea when the University of Michigan men’s glee club came to the private boys’ school where Kiver was teaching in Brisbane, Australia.

“They were phenomenal, and I saw the impact that had on my teenage students and I thought it would be a good thing to replicate here,” he said.

Kiver started teaching at Penn State eight years ago. He’s also director of the oldest organization on campus, the 123-year-old Glee Club.

Senior Nathaniel Hess said he hopes to show the visiting young men that male singing is “cool” and that young men don’t necessarily have to go out for sports to be considered “manly.”

Hess, a history and political science major, is president of the 75-member Penn State Glee Club, as well as a member of the Hi-Lo’s, a group of 12 who are part of the Glee Club.  “What we’re trying to do with this festival is plant a seed of interest and foster an interest in singing so they can continue on through college,” he said.

According to Kiver, 48 boys from six high schools, including State College Area High School, are expected to participate.

The visitors will start the morning rehearsing two pieces with the Hi-Lo’s and will join with the whole Glee Club to rehearse other pieces in the afternoon. At 3:30 p.m., the visiting boys and the entire Glee Club will give an informal concert in Esber Recital Hall in Music Building I. The concert will be free and open to the public.

Kiver publicized the festival through the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes excellence in music education in the state.

Robert Drafall, choral director of State College Area High School, said he will have his boys participate.

“I think it’s just a reinforcement of the fact that singing is great, singing with guys is even greater,” Drafall said.

Drafall’s choir is made up of high school juniors and seniors who are at the peak age for a man’s voice to change.

“My group, in particular, is made up of a very diverse grouping of kids in terms of vocal experience,” Drafall said.  “I have some kids here who have been singing for years [and] are applying to schools of vocal performance, and I have kids who have never sung ever in a choir and are really inexperienced singers.”

               Other participating schools are Central Dauphin High School in Harrisburg, Clarion Area High School, Grove City High School, Everett High School and Freedom High School in Bethlehem.