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Campus music department earns top awards in WorldStrides Heritage Festival


FC wins the Gold standard, Choral Sweepstakes and Disney Dreamin’ winner

[/media-credit] Alina Ochoa (left to right), ’19, holds ensemble Gold award, Lindsay Weimer, ’20, holds “Lets Start Dreamin'”, Max Hinton, ’21, and Braden Bell, ’20, holds the choral Gold Award. Blake Deffenbacher, ‘2o, holds the Choral Sweepstakes award. For their next performance, the choral groups will be performing at their spring concert on May 6.

With the school year coming to end, Fresno Christian’s music department traveled to Anaheim, California to compete in the WorldStrides Heritage Festival, April 5-7. Bringing home a number of awards, including the Choral Sweepstakes award, students Lindsay Weimer, ’20, and Sarah Upshaw, ’23, also won individual awards.

The day after the performance, students traveled to Disneyland and California Adventure for a day of rides and to finally see the awards they won after their hard work.

All three choirs were able to achieve Gold awards at a 90 or above rating. Out of three different judges, 92-95 points was the average scores for the campus choirs.

The judges not only critiqued the choir’s singing but also the way they presented as a group on stage. The scored covered ten different music standards. The Gold rating provides an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall in a Gold Festival.

After the awards had been handed out to each performing group, Disney’s ‘Time to Start Dreamin’ Award’ was introduced. The host explained the criteria and importance of the award, which is given by Disney as opposed to WorldStrides. As he finished explaining the recipient’s journey through life and music, Weimer was announced as the winner. 

Recognizing Weimer’s perseverance, choir director Susan Ainley described Weimer as having a “spunky spirit” in her nomination letter. As the second FCS student to win the award given by Disney, Weimer succeeds Andrew Guthrie who won the “When You Wish” award in 2015.

“Having Lindsay receive that inspirational award was just so exciting,” Ainley said, “I know she doesn’t like to be singled out, but she is so deserving because of her courageous and spunky spirit. You have to understand that Lindsay came to class when she had no voice at all, she couldn’t even talk. But she came to class and got out her music and followed along. Everything in her life was hard and she didn’t perform but she performed the next year, so to me, that is the height of bravery and courage.”

Weimer’s mother Heidi was taken after a long battle with cancer, eventually passing in 2014. In the summer of 2017, Lindsay became the second member of the Weimer family to be diagnosed with cancer. Although she couldn’t sing due to the state of her condition, she learned to persevere through her struggles. Weimer learned her music, preparing for the day that her voice would return.

The following podcast features choir director Susan Ainley expanding her thoughts on her choir’s performance at the festival.

Attending her third Heritage festival, Ainley acknowledges the value of the festival for students even as 24 groups performed at festivals from California, Oregon, and Washington. During the awards ceremony, Upshaw was awarded with the Maestro award for her singing. When the music departments last performed at the Heritage Festival, Naty Tewodros, ’22, also won the Maestro award.

“We work so hard ahead of time learning our music and the technique,” Ainley said. “They learn to judge their performance by our standards and then see if the judges agree. The judges will say something they have heard or know before and so they know what they mean. Or conversely they say something that they have never heard that in their lives and then they try to  learn that.”

Band director, Lesley Bannister also led the FC band, Eagle band, percussion, and color guard during the festival. Both Eagle band and percussion won silver awards, with FC band and color guard winning Gold awards. The 134 students that attended finished off their weekend with a trip to The Grove in L.A.

“I was so proud of how my students performed at the Heritage Festival,” Bannister said. “They really rose to the occasion, delivering one of their best performances yet.  FC band took on challenging music and performed beautifully. Sophomore Ellie Scully was a featured soloist on a piece entitled “Fight a Fancy”, and the adjudicators gave numerous compliments about her playing!  So proud of the FC band for winning a Gold award!”
 For many of the Eagle band students, this was their first trip to a music festival. According to Bannister, they were nervous, but still performed their selections well. Olivia Dansby, ’23, was featured on alto sax in the last piece called “Sax to the Max”. The adjudicators said they loved her tone and performance.
“Our color guard team performed their 2019 winter show called “The Landmines,”‘ Bannister said. “It was very challenging to perform outdoors in the winter, but they gave it 100%. So proud of their hard work all season, and thrilled that they won a Gold award.
 “I am so proud of how well my students represented our themselves, our program, and our school,” Bannister continued. “Not only did they play to the best of their ability, but they were kind, gracious, and had great attitudes all weekend!”
[/media-credit] Sarah Upshaw, ’23, won the Maestro award along with a few select recipients from other schools.

Christoopher Mericle, ‘24, a first-year Eagle band student appreciated the opportunity to exhibit his faith during the performances.

“I think it was important because we got to show God’s grace and our skills that we have learned and we got to hear good feedback and access the knowledge of trained professionals,” Mericle said. “When we work together we can become a really good band, a really good color guard and just really keep improving overall.”

A second-year ensemble member, Weimer credits her success to Ainley. In total, 1,000 students competed at the festival, with many students competing as part of both a choir and band.

“I want to give a huge thank you to my choir and ensemble director, Susan Ainley,” Weimer said. “I would not have been recognized if it wasn’t for her. Throughout all of my chemotherapy treatments, Ainley allowed and encouraged me to participate and never made me feel left out. I felt very honored to have been chosen out of all the students who were nominated.”

Danielle Foster, ’20, sees Weimer’s personality shine through and recognizes the significance of what she has done. While there, junior high and high school choirs along with Bellezza, the girl’s ensemble, achieved the Gold ranking.

“Lindsay got the award because she is one of the sweetest and most genuine people in the world,” Foster said. “She definitely deserves it for the way she has handled what she has been through, with joy and trust in God.”

Ainley also reminisces to her last experience at the festival. The last time they went, Bellezza ensemble, won the adjudicator’s award, which recognizes groups who got an average score of 95 or higher from judges.

I would say my favorite memory is the second time I went and ensemble won the highest score in the entire competition,” Ainley said. “It was so validating for the ensemble because they were the smallest school and the smallest group from any school among 50 other groups.”

The following tweet features a clip of Bellezza performing during the Heritage Festival.

Seeing the benefits of performing in front of professionals, Foster values making memories.

“The heritage festival is important because it gives us experience in being in a festival with other choirs,” Foster said, “as well as giving students the opportunity to take notes from an adjudicator and apply them to the vocal skills. But my favorite part of the trip was getting to go to Disneyland with my friends, and getting to create awesome memories.”

For more information on the WorldStrides Heritage Festival, read FC music earns Gold at annual Heritage Festival.

The instrumental groups will be performing at their spring concert, “A Day at Disneyland” on April 29. On May 6, the choral groups will be performing for their spring concert.

The following video features Lindsay Weimer receiving the “Time to Start Dreamin'” award.

Weimer receives “Time to Start Dreamin’ Award” from The Feather Online on Vimeo.

For more articles, read Column: Parent grateful for FCS’ impact on community, family or Caleigh Alday excels in dance competitions.

Ethan Hamm can be reached via email and Twitter. Vijay Stephen can be reached via email and Twitter.

For The Feather article on Weimer’s battle with cancer, check out Lindsay Weimer Shares Success Story of Cancer Battle, part 1.<

Slideshow images below of choir and individual awards from World Stride Heritage Festival, April 6.

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    Susan AinleyApr 12, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Fantastic coverage of our premier event! Thank you, Feather, for always being right there with us!