Tag Archives: Oregon Bach Festival

104 – Oregon Bach Festival Youth Choral Academy

This was one of the most life changing things I have ever done.  When I was a junior in high school, the Oregon Bach Festival started the Youth Choral Academy.  It started out small, probably only about 50 or 60 of us, all from Eugene.  They got one of the best choral conductors in the country, Anton Armstrong from St. Olaf College, to come and lead us with the help of an amazing Dick Clark from the U of O.   I imagine we were not that great the first year, but I can tell you that I left that week of the academy a much better singer and chorus member.  We got to work with amazing singers on vocal technique, body singing and so much more.  We went to the ‘camp’ during the day, but were free to get into all sorts of shenanigans at night.

The next year, the administrators wised up, and put us in the dorm to keep a better eye on us.  We were also much better the next year, coming from all over Oregon.  Dr. Armstrong expected much more from us and kicked our butts a little harder.  I learned even more.  Unfortunately, my college women’s choir was a huge let down after singing with the amazing singers in the OBFYCA, so I quit singing after my first term in the choir.  I did go back as a chaperone for the YCA the next summer.

I was a very strict chaperone.

This year was the 15th anniversary of the academy, so they invited all 700 of the alumni back for a weekend of rehearsals, a luncheon and to since a couple songs with the current YCA (now called Stangeland Family YCA) kids.  The concert was this past Sunday, and I have to say I had so much fun.  Only about 35 alums showed up, but there were 4 of us from the original year.  I took Alma to the luncheon and it was pretty fun to imagine her singing in the choir in 15 or 16 years.  Oh, how lucky she would be to have an experience like singing in the SFYCA.

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Number 56 – Dr. Anton Armstrong

Dr. Armstrong is the conductor of the Oregon Bach Festival Youth Choral Academy. I was a charter member of the YCA.  In 1998 I had the opportunity and privilege to sing with the YCA and with Dr. A.  I have been in choirs my whole life, from school choirs, community choirs, church choirs… It wasn’t until I was in Dr. A’s choir that I really learned how to sing in a choir.  What he does is magic.  He gets 80 high school vocalists from around the US together and teaches them to sing.

We had all been in choirs, good ones, in fact.  But, nothing compares to the sound that we could make together under Dr. A’s direction.  I remember each summer I did the YCA coming out of the experience a much better singer and musician.

My strongest memories of Dr. A and the YCA are the times that we were either singing beautifully or terribly.  It was awful when he said we were singing “mugly” – mucho ugly.  It was heartbreaking when he was disappointed with us.  On the other hand, when we were all hitting the notes and singing with feeling Dr. A gave us the most amazing praise.  I remember one time he held his hand to his heart after a soaring tenor line.  He is one of those people you really want to please, and will work your hardest to make sure that he’s happy with your performance.

I will never forget the 3 years I was involved with the YCA.  Those were some of the bet times in my life and I learned so much from Dr. Armstrong.

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