The Alton High Conservatory students with their directors (not pictured, Ashten Marshall).
ALTON — Alton High School Conservatory students will put on the annual Moonlight Concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, at Jacoby Arts Center. The concert features the Alton High music program’s top eight vocalists.
The conservatory is a music department program in which students get private voice lessons during the school day. Directors Alison Neace and Eddie Hitchcock say the consistency is greater for students who are seen during the school day.
“The kids also get to do a lot more performing,” Neace says, mentioning the recitals and master classes in which students participate.
The conservatory was started about 10 years ago to help build Alton High’s choir program and increase students’ musicianship, according to Hitchcock. Neace says the Conservatory has helped the students immensely.
“We have seen an increase in voice levels,” Hitchcock says.
Hitchcock says the conservatory “prepares the kids who will study music in college.”
“We run it a lot like you would a college conservatory,” Hitchcock says.
The students learn to audition and perform in front of other students and full audiences as well as working as often as possible with a live accompanist. But Neace says the skills learned through the conservatory reach far beyond just singing.
“They’re learning how to get in front of people,” Neace says. “This is a big deal for them in the long run.”
The concert is a fundraiser that supports the scholarship program for conservatory students.
“It’s for students who can’t afford lessons; our scholarship program offers half scholarships to students in need,” Hitchcock says. “Usually, those are the kids who want to study music.”
The audition for the concert is one of the most difficult auditions the students face.
“They audition in the fall in front of professional musicians” instead of performing for their directors and teachers, Neace says. The judges are brought in from collegiate music programs in the area.
“It’s just like a professional audition,” Hitchcock says.
The students hand the judges a résumé and perform their piece, and later receive a form with critiques and comments about their performance.
“Some of the kids really thrive in that environment,” Neace says. “They’re all really proud of themselves when they finish.”
Neace says the conservatory is thankful for the Jacoby Arts Center, which donates the venue for the evening.
“They have been very gracious to us; it’s a great venue,” she says. “It’s exciting for the kids.”
Students featured this year are Robert Davis, Gabriel Generally, Anya Jones, Ashten Marshall, Devin McIntire, Kevin Neace and Jonathan Williams.
The accompanist for the show is Tyler Ciesler, a former conservatory student.
The concert will feature many styles of music, including foreign pieces, folk, and musical theater, according to Hitchcock. Refreshments will be served during intermission.
“It really is a very entertaining concert — worth coming out to see,” Neace says.