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As the first rehearsal during the Corvallis School District’s choir festival started, the students were separated — members of a Corvallis High School choir on one side of the auditorium and members of a Crescent Valley High School choir on the other.

But Justin Smith, director of choral activities at Marylhurst University and the event’s guest conductor, was having none of that, and the first thing he did was to mix the schools’ students up as they got on stage.

And breaking down barriers between schools — as well as celebrating music — is what Choralpalooza is all about. The event, held Saturday at Crescent Valley, brought together more than 230 choir students in grades five through 12 from across the district for a day of rehearsal followed by a concert.

“Schools don’t really matter when you’re here,” said CHS Choir Teacher Leah Tomlin. “You get to make music together, and it doesn’t really matter what school you come from.”

Jakki Moses, music teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, said the event, which is in its sixth year, was held on a Saturday this year and last, unlike the event’s initial iterations when it was held during a school day.

“We wanted to have a more relaxed atmosphere where students were not overworked from the school day,” said Moses.

Although the individual school choirs practice the songs that will be performed at the concert, the students don’t rehearse the music as a group until the day of the festival. After practicing Saturday afternoon, the students put on a concert Saturday evening.

Moses said the event’s value is in bringing together hundreds of kids together for a positive experience.

“We’re talking about connection with other human beings without a screen,” she said.

Christy Bowlden, Garfield Elementary School’s music specialist, said the event gives students a chance to be part of something bigger than one school. And it can teach them something she thinks is more important than learning about rhythm or what quarter notes are: that music is fun.

“Kids at my school struggle with language, with math, with writing. ... but singing is so fun. They struggle with other things, but they get to come to our classes and have fun.”

Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.


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