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Exercising voices, bodies

Students raise and lower their voices in unison with scarves under the direction of Rachael Kresha, center left, at Northern Lights Elementary School Friday. More than a dozen fourth and fifth graders are taking part in a pilot program provided by Lake Superior Youth Chorus. (Maria Lockwood)

Young voices soared and dipped in unison with multi-colored scarves Friday afternoon in the music room at Northern Lights Elementary School. Students later passed a rubber ball to the tempo of a song, freezing in mid-pass when the music stopped. They danced, they grinned, they snapped and they sang as part of a new Prelude pilot program offered by Lake Superior Youth Chorus.

“The learning that happens is massive, with ever so many activities packed into an hour,” said Leslie Black, music teacher at the school. Under the instruction of Rachael Kresha, Prelude program director, the students exercise their voices every week, bringing their whole bodies into the act.

“It is so obvious that students are loving their hour with Rachael on Fridays,” Black said. “The chatter and laughter constantly confirm that.”

Fifth graders Emily Asp and Tyler Oppel said their favorite part of the program, which started in early February, was the exercises. Tyler said he also enjoys performing in front of others.

“I like to sing and I like to socialize,” said fifth grader Colin Petrovich.

“It’s really fun,” said fourth grader Chancellor Davis.

Black has been encouraging her students to broaden their musical horizons in Lake Superior Youth Chorus for years. Kimber Herubin, a fifth grader at Northern Lights, is in her third year with the program.

“It’s a very professional, classy organization,” said Kimber’s mother, Jennifer Johnson. The children learn music theory, how to read music, and how to perform professionally.

“They really get the kids excited about it,” Johnson said, and the concerts are great. “They impress us every time.”

The program has helped boost Kimber’s confidence and led to new friendships. When Kimber started in the program, only two Superior students were involved. Now four Northern Lights students perform in the Choristers.

“I think it’s great for kids to have friends outside school and the neighborhood,” Johnson said. “Kimber has friends all over the Twin Ports now.”

In addition to performing with the Choristers, Kimber will be the featured soloist tonight for the Superior High School concert orchestra’s performance of “In Dreams.” The piece from “Lord of the Rings” required a child’s voice, and Black suggested Kimber for the part. The music teacher has also encouraged students to try out for parts in the high school’s upcoming musical, “Beauty and the Beast.” Now a member of the Lake Superior Youth Chorus board of directors, Black hopes to see the Northern Lights pilot expand to include students from other Superior schools, as well as other districts in the Twin Ports.

Johnson encouraged other parents to consider enrolling their children in the program. The time commitment is minimal — 90 minutes once a week. All classes except the pilot program take place at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Duluth.

“It’s a really good way to get kids started in music,” Johnson said. “I think that music as part of your life is really important. It’s something you can use the rest of your life.”

Community donations help support the program and provide scholarships for students. One of the youth chorus’ biggest fundraisers, a combined concert, social hour and silent auction, takes place 5:30-7:30 p.m. March 15 at the church, 2310 E. Fourth St., Duluth. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online at More information on Lake Superior Youth Chorus is also available on the website.