After her first appearance with the Juilliard in Aiken festival in 2012, opera singer Rachael Wilson is delighted to return this week.
Her first performance came Monday – an education outreach program at Midland Valley High School.
“It's just kind of like coming back home,” said the New York City resident. “It's fascinating and sort of weird coming from the big city to somewhere that appears to be in the middle of nowhere. But everyone is so welcoming and so interested in what we are doing. It's great to be able to share that.”
Wilson was joined at Midland Valley by singers Pureum Jo, Davone Tines and Miles Mykkanen, and pianist Daniel Fung.
At Mead Hall later in the day, the Pisticci String Trio – violinist Fabiola Kim, violist Jocelin Pan and cellist Patrick McGuire – performed for students in grades K-7.
The older students attended a public organ performance by Paul Jacobs, also at St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church. Other musical programs were held at Ridge Spring-Monetta High School and Allendale Middle School.
The Midland Valley students were surprised that the performers there are still in their 20s; Mykkanen is just 21.
“We have really talented students here at Midland Valley,” said choral teacher Vanessa Cox, “but this is exposure beyond what we can provide for them. I'm thrilled that our singers and our fine arts students get to hear the use of the techniques we're trying to impart to them to their full capability.”
Cox's daughter Morgan is a choral group member.
“I've grown up with music my entire life from the time my mom was in college doing musical theory classes and seeing her performances,” Morgan said. “It was so great to see this today – listening to them and seeing their facial expressions. I really got into it.”
Three of her choral classmates also enjoyed the performance – Brandon Corley, Jillian Hadley and Josey Wells. Hadley had never heard opera before and found it interesting, although she especially liked two musical theater songs in English. Wells has been singing all this life, and he, too, appreciated the unfamiliar operatic music.
“I'm an R&B guy with old-school kind of music,” Corley said. “But I loved this. It's great to expand your mind and see different kinds of music out there. The baritone (Tines) was really amazing.”
At Mead Hall, Terry Jenkins is the new band director part-time after serving in that role for nearly three decades at North Augusta Middle School before retiring last year.
“This program is great for all the kids, and some of them play strings,” Jenkins said. “I loved listening to all the descriptions of the music from the children. They're so innocent.”
Kitty Gordon, the Mead Hall director, tried to explain to the younger children just how special the concert was.
“I don't want us to take for granted the caliber of the players they're hearing today,” she said.
Students from a number of schools will attend a Jazz Kidz Bop performance at the Etherredge Center today at 10 a.m. Earlier, at 8:15 a.m., the Yang Dugan Duo will visit Aiken High School orchestra students.
Juilliard in Aiken will hold one free and open to the public performance today at Second Baptist Church, 425 Hampton Ave. N.W. The Triptych Percussion Ensemble will perform at 7 p.m. For reservations, call the church office at 803-644-3994.
A vocal master class for private students and those from the S.C. Governor's School for the Arts will be held at the Aiken County Historical Museum today from 10 a.m. to noon. A string trio chamber music workshop will be held at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic School from 10 a.m. to noon.
Juilliard vocalists will appear at Heritage Academy at 2 p.m. A string trio working rehearsal will be attended by the Aiken Youth Orchestra from 6 to 8 p.m.