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WMU well represented on choir trip to China Olympics

July 11, 2008

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University music professor, along with four singers and three instrumentalists who are either current or former WMU students, will perform with the World Youth Choir on its upcoming trip to China.

The entourage, which includes Dr. Stephen Zegree, the WMU Bobby McFerrin Professor of Jazz as the choir's director, lands Monday, July 14, in Hong Kong and returns Aug. 11. In addition to Hong Kong, the choir will visit and perform in Guangzhou and Macau, China. A high point of the trip will be a televised concert at the Hong Kong Olympic Equestrian Venue for the opening festivities of the summer Olympic Games.

Four of the five singers in the choir representing the United States are either WMU students or alumni. Students include Torian Johnson of Kalamazoo, Partick Laslie of Fort Wayne, Ind., and April graduate Nathaniel Adams of St. Charles, Ill. All three sang in Gold Company, WMU's acclaimed vocal jazz ensemble, this past academic year. In addition, the choir's bass section leader is Derek Fawcett, a WMU alumnus from Chicago.

WMU current and former students also will play a key role as the choir's back-up musicians. The choir's rhythm section is composed of Medallion Scholar and three-year Gold Company drummer Ryan Andrews of Kalamazoo and WMU alumni Dave Izard of Summit, N.J., on piano and Aaron Tully of Cleveland on bass.

The term "youth" is somewhat misleading. Choir members are aspiring young professionals. The honor of being named a World Youth Choir member is well earned, Zegree says. Choir membership is by audition and highly competitive, with some 80 singers between the ages of 18 and 27 from 33 countries vying for a spot.

"We'll do our best to represent WMU well," Zegree says. "This should be an amazing experience."

This is not Zegree's first stint as World Youth Choir director. Zegree directed the choir on its 2001 trip to South Africa. WMU students and graduates also have deep ties with the choir. In 2002, WMU alumna Erin Cramer was the sole U.S. representative in the choir, which performed in Kalamazoo on its U.S. tour, while four WMU students and alumni were tapped to sing with the choir in 2007.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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