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UWF Summer Festival Chorus brings students, alumni and community members together

June 25, 2018 | By: Jordan Ardoin |

The UWF Singers with Eric Whitacre conducting, performed two selections during the gala.
The UWF Singers with Whitacre conducting, performed two selections during the gala.

Jennifer Adkins is a UWF alumna who graduated in 2008 with an M.A. in Public History and spent a few years as an adjunct professor in the UWF Department of History. She also loves to sing.

Adkins says, “I have a compulsive desire to sing with others. It clears my brain and soul like a medicine.”

This year, Adkins is one of many participants, including students, alumni and community members, of UWF’s Summer Festival Chorus, which will hold “Hayden Lord Nelson Mass,” its final performance, June 30 at 7:30 PM at UWF.

Summer Festival Chorus, now in its second year, invites singers of all experience levels to learn and perform classical pieces. Dr. Peter Steenblik, UWF director of choral activities and assistant professor in the Department of Music, directs the program.

Summer Festival Chorus is an outgrowth of the UWF Singers. The UWF Singers program began in 1967 and sets an example of choral excellence for the Northwest Florida region. Members frequently collaborate with local chorus organizations, including the Pensacola Choral Society and the Pensacola Children’s Chorus.

Session One of the 2018 Summer Festival Chorus, entitled “Reinventions: 21st Century Choral Music,” culminated in a public performance on June 9. The performance featured 21st century compositions paired with earlier pieces that likely inspired them. In this session, the chorus included close to 80 participants, ranging in age from 17 to 60s and in experience from first-time choral performers to seasoned music students.

Steenblik says, “This Summer Festival Chorus is designed ​with the bank teller in mind, the waiter, the insurance broker...anyone who once sang, and wishes to again.”

Some participants are current UWF music students, while others are alumni or community members with full-time jobs just looking for an opportunity to sing. According to participants across the spectrum, this mixture of people and perspectives makes Summer Festival Chorus a valuable experience for all involved.

Isabelle Areola, collaborative pianist for the event and current UWF junior majoring in music performance, says it made an exciting change to work with “people who saw music as something different than what I saw it as.”

"We sang together after just one week, and it was glorious, and we could not stop smiling.”

- Mary Holway, class of 2007

Participating alumni also find the diversity of this year’s Summer Festival Chorus stimulating. Vocal performance and education alumna Mary Holway (class of 2007) says, “I stood next to a mother with two small children, a high school student, a 60-something lawyer, a middle school music teacher, a university student, a retired empty-nester mom, a single mom whose young son sang in the chorus and many more, and that was just the sopranos! We sang together after just one week, and it was glorious, and we could not stop smiling.”

Steenblik says participation is especially high for those who enjoyed singing publicly early on in life but lost opportunities to do so as they grew older. The program offers a chance for such people to pursue their passion once again without interrupting their daily life and work schedule.

Voice performance alumnus Marshall Corzette (class of 2013) says, “The UWF Festival Chorus allows me to participate in a lovely choir, but without a huge time commitment.”

All participants, student and alumni, amateur and professional, emphasize the community bond that is formed during the Summer Festival Chorus experience.

Jennifer Adkins says, “The entire group is razor-focused, committed, and you can feel that we all share the same goal of expressing ourselves through shared voices.”

Rebekah Foushee, chorus manager for the event and current UWF senior majoring in music education, says, “That’s the beautiful thing about music, and about choir in particular, is that, yes, it is educational, it is difficult, it is hard work, but we can take everyone and kind of work with them right where they are and get them to where they need to be.”

According to Foushee, Steenblik’s attentive, detail-oriented directorial approach fosters this community spirit of working together to achieve a common goal. Steenblik inspires chorus members of all backgrounds to produce the best possible performance for the community.

Areola says, “Bonding over music and getting to share that with the community is a great experience.”

Rehearsals for session two of the 2018 Summer Festival Chorus will take place June 25-29, with the performance on June 30 at 7:30 PM in the Music Hall of UWF’s Center for Fine and Performing Arts. The performance is free and open to the public. For more information and videos of session one, visit the Summer Festival Chorus website.

Auditions for UWF Singers will be held Thursday, Aug. 23, Friday, Aug. 24, Monday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 28. All UWF students are welcome to audition at the beginning of any semester. For more information on the UWF Singers, visit