Erin McShane has built a powerhouse choral program in Union City, California. Starting with a small, beginner-level choir, she has become well respected for her superior and eclectic groups capable of tackling college level and professional works. Erin credits traveling with her choir to international music festivals as a powerful catalyst for her program’s success.
“The program has grown exponentially and traveling helps a lot. The experience they get with WorldStrides adjudicators who are in the thick of it is priceless,” McShane remarked. “Growth through adjudication – in some cases they hear the same thing that they hear in class every day but the light bulb goes off when someone else says it and I can refer back to those comments throughout the teaching year.”
Erin feels the reinforcement given by WorldStrides’ festival adjudicators establishes the teacher as an authority in the way that only a third-party endorsement can. Erin also cites the value of exposure to great choirs. It’s hard to explain musical excellence until her students hear it, surrounded by a great group of young performers who have experienced the same challenges and are succeeding. Suddenly, intonation, dynamics, interpretation, and all the other components of musicianship are no longer abstracts, but real qualities created by the technical skills of the teacher and students. Students can see the “cause and effect” of the training they receive every day in class.
Several years ago, Erin took her kids to Puerto Rico on a WorldStrides festival program. The excitement of a trip outside of the United States to a place with such unique heritage and history made Puerto Rico the perfect setting for an unforgettable trip. The warm-up space for the festival was in a beautiful old Spanish church. The students began to sing one of their pieces and as Erin looked around, she realized they were all crying. She asked them why and they said, eyes glistening, that: “It’s just so pretty”. The whole experience was magical and forever changed these young performers in inexplicable and palpable ways. There is no way to replicate that experience in the classroom or the school auditorium. As Erin puts it, “It sure didn’t feel like home”.
And that’s just the point; it’s not home, it’s the “rest of the world” providing context and meaning to “home” in a whole new way.