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Dr. Don Studebaker rehearses with the 70-plus members of the Northeastern State University/Community Chorus. Walk-ins are welcome to join at the next rehearsal, Sept. 2, which is also the deadline for new members this season.

Beautiful music emanates from the blended voices of this year’s Northeastern State University/Community Chorus.

If 70-plus people can sound this amazing the first time most of them sing together, their concerts and annual Christmas Gala promise to be requisite experiences for music lovers in this area.

Under the direction of Dr. Don Studebaker, now in his 25th year conducting the choir, the students and community volunteers began rehearsals Tuesday night, with impressive results. Holly Stocks is piano accompanist.

This is the third year Studebaker has opened the choir to community members. Walk-in singers, combined with students and faculty, bring a unique quality to the group.

“Tuesday, Sept. 2, people can still jump on board who couldn’t make it Aug. 26,” Dr. Studebaker said. “After that, the door closes.”

Vocal performance and music education students are required to participate in the choir, which is now in its 60th year. Studebaker is its second director.

“Both feet on the floor, sit up tall. This is not a cocktail party,” he told the choir members as he slid behind the piano and played the first scale he instructed them to sing.

“Experienced choristers, lead the way.”

Later, Studebaker had them put their fingers in front of their ears and open their mouths to feel their jaws drop.

“Some of you haven’t opened your mouths that big except for a Big Mac,” he said, drawing laughter from many.

After singing a difficult phrase, he moved in closer to the altos.

“You’re the only one that has that note. You’ve got to be courageous,” he said, encouraging them to them to sing out.

NSU senior Colby Walker will graduate with a degree as a vocal performer. She sings with the choir because Studebaker inspires her, and she gets to learn a variety of interesting music.

“I transferred from two other major universities, and his teaching is far better than any I’ve had,” Walker said. “He’s very thorough and very respectful of all students, not putting one above another. We’re all on an even playing field.”

A father and son, and from another family, a mother and daughter, are members of the choir.

Carl Arnold Sr. is singing for the first time with the choir, at the invitation of his son, Seth. A pastor in Gore, Arnold finds himself challenged, and loving every minute of it.

“It’s nice, tremendous,” he said. “I like to blend in when I can catch the note.”

Son Seth is a second-year voice student, music education major and senior from Gore.

“I love music,” he said. “Seeing everybody come together is incredible.”

Samantha Benn-Duke sang with the choir when she was in college, and now, she joins daughter Cassie among the singers for her second year.

“This brings back good memories of my college years, and I get to watch my daughter grow as a musician,” she said. “This choir gives musicians an opportunity to perform in a professional venue with an orchestra.”

Studebaker relates well to both students and adults, she said.

“His sense of humor combined with his expertise in music is why he’s such a motivational conductor,” Benn-Duke said.

Benn-Duke is proud to be a part of the choir because of her family heritage, which also gained a scholarship for her daughter.

“My grandmother went to the female seminary and my grandfather to the male seminary, so my family has been a part of this college a long time,” she said.

Vocal music education major Louie Fritts said the music was most challenging for the first day.

The Muskogee freshman said singing makes him feel good.

“And it makes others feel good to hear it if its good,” he said.

David Keck’s love of singing brought him to the choir. The Muskogee freshman with an undecided major said high school choir was fun.

“I like what music brings out in people, different emotions,” he said.

Community member Charles Anderson joined the choir last spring when he moved to Tahlequah, saying he was “really stretched” by the experience.

“I enjoy good music and Don’s a fantastic conductor,” Anderson said. “There are so many good voices, I had to practice at home to keep up. It was a thrill to do the performance.”

Anderson previously was a member of two large church choirs in Tennessee and Texas.

Freshman Cassie Clark, a vocal performance major from Vian, is excited because everybody is so advanced.

“It’s exciting to hear a song completed,” Clark said, adding she’s glad to be a part of it.

Meagan Huffman, a freshman vocal education major from Lincoln, Ark., was surprised by the choir.

“I didn’t expect it to be so big,” Huffman said. “It’s surprising it went really well.”

Kove Beals performed in the musical, “Little Women” in Bixby this summer. It’s the freshman vocal performance major’s first time to sing with a really big choir.

“The mix between community people and college students, in an unauditioned choir where you can walk right in this week, is surprisingly really good,” Beals said.

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