Annual festival brings 900 high school singers to campus

Contact: Dannielle Sturgeon
Photo of Francisco J. Núñez.

Guest conductor Francisco Núñez

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The 79th annual Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival will be held on Western Michigan University's campus Thursday, March 16. The daylong festival will culminate in performance in WMU's Miller Auditorium. The concert is open to the public, free of charge, and will feature the 900-voice Festival Chorus, which will nearly fill the first level of the auditorium.

About the concert

Guest conductor Francisco J. Núñez, artistic director and founder of the Young People's Chorus of New York City, will lead the evening performance, which includes the large Festival Chorus as well as the select 65-member 2017 Honors Choir. Featured performances will be given by WMU's University Chorale and Gold Company.

The large Festival Chorus will perform four works including Johannes Brahms' "The May Night," Wendell Whalum's "Betelehemu," and two songs by Núñez: "Forever is my Song" to open the concert and "Es Tu Tiempo" in closing. The auditioned high school Honors Choir will perform three selections: Juan Pérez Bocanegra's "Hanacpachap cussicuinin," Morten Lauridsen's "Dirait-On" and Moses Hogan's arrangement of the gospel song "My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord."

About the festival

Since its inception in 1935, the Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival has been dedicated to providing an experience in mass singing of good repertoire under the leadership of an inspiring conductor. Each year a noted guest conductor is invited to work with select students in a fall workshop and conduct the daylong festival that occurs each March.

High schools qualified to participate in this year's festival and their directors are as follows:

  • Berrien Springs, Carrie VanDenburgh
  • Brandywine, Denise Boger
  • Coloma, Rebecca Selvidge
  • Comstock Park, Jeanette Doehring
  • Dowagiac Union, Jeff Robinson
  • Grand Rapids South Christian, Katie DeVries
  • Hamilton, Holly Israels
  • Hopkins, Jacob Oaster
  • Kalamazoo Central, Theresa Williams-Johnson
  • Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, Julie Pelligrino
  • Lawton, Gary Oegema
  • Niles, Matthew D. Hunckler
  • Portage Central, Cindy Hunter
  • Quincy, Anna Martuch
  • Stevensville Lakeshore, Katherine Rohwer
  • Sturgis, Eric Cadena
  • Watervliet, Tami Brush
  • Wayland Union, Ricci Sabin

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit