Choir accepts invite to compete in Italy

Members of Florida A&M University’s choral music program are in good spirits after accepting an invitation to the 2008 International Choir Festival in Italy, where the program will compete against choirs from various countries.

“Through our various appearances, we got invited,” said Charlie Toomer, the choral music director. The program has gained a reputation that warranted an invitation, Toomer said.

“We sing for a variety of audiences,” said Ivan White, a 22-year-old criminal justice student from Atlanta. “The choral music program sings in different genres and languages.”

The program gets exposure that it would not normally receive when it performs for audiences that are not predominately black, White said.

“Everyone no matter where they are from enjoys music, White said. “Music is a universal language.”

The invitation to Italy is not the first invite the program has received to perform abroad. In 2002 the program performed in Anchorage, Alaska, in 2003 it traveled to the Bahamas, in 2004 it ventured to Ethiopia, and in December 2006 the program went on a mini tour in Spain.

“The legacy of the program is rich,” White said.

Stacey Gordon, a 23-year-old music education student from Orlando, went to Anchorage and the Bahamas with the program. “Going to other places has been preparing us to go to Italy.”

Gordon said she and others in the program experienced things they would never have experienced without the trips to Anchorage and the Bahamas.

“They welcomed us with open arms in the Bahamas,” Gordon said.

Toomer said, “I am always interested in giving my students different opportunities to go outside of their norms.”

The trip to Italy will be full of first-time experiences for a lot of the students in the program, many of whom have never been outside of Florida or on board an airplane, Toomer said.

“I do not think I would have seen as many places as I have had it not been for the program.” said White. “This program travels like no other.”

Although the program’s main reason for traveling is to perform, the trips serve other purposes such as networking, Gordon said. Students in the program will get exposed to people from different cultures through the festival, said Toomer.

Gordon said going to the festival will be a great opportunity for the students in the program to meet people from all over the world who share a common interest in choir music.

“It is a once in a lifetime experience,” she said. “When will we ever be able to go to Italy with more than 30 of our friends?” Gordon said she makes the trips make the choir more united.

“Despite all of the recent negative media attention FAMU has been receiving, FAMU will get positive attention in Italy,” Toomer said.