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For more information on the Redmond Community Choir, visit bit.ly/ 30hQzQ1

From people who get paid to teach music to a breast cancer survivor looking to get involved with the community, Redmond-area residents from different backgrounds are joining a new local choir.

The Redmond Community Choir is the brainchild of Ken Piarulli a longtime church choir director. The choir is being offered this fall as a non-credit continuing education class at Central Oregon Community College’s Redmond Campus and is getting a big response.

After moving to Redmond from Watertown, New York, last year, Piarulli joined the choir at St. Thomas Catholic Church. But he also wanted opportunities to sing outside church and found they were limited without going to Bend.

“I decided that if there’s not a choir here, maybe I can start one,” said Piarulli, now the choir’s musical director.

Piarulli, who has a master’s degree in music education from Syracuse University, decided to talk with COCC about offering the class in Redmond. He said the school was “very receptive” and put him in touch with its music department.

“I wanted to be very sensitive to what they’re doing and approached it as a collaboration with the COCC music department,” Piarulli said.

Music offerings have been limited at the Redmond Campus. This summer, only beginning mandolin and clawhammer banjo classes were offered.

“Not very many people have music offerings up here,” Piarulli said. “They pretty much go to the Bend Campus, even with the rapid growth of Redmond. I feel a lot of people don’t want to drive to Bend that often.”

Tina Redd, COCC’s Redmond Campus director, wrote in an email that offering choir at the college is a “win-win.”

“I was very interested in supporting the community choir because there is no non-religious outlet for singers here in Redmond,” Redd wrote. “I love the idea of rehearsals taking place on the COCC Redmond Campus — we’re here to support the community, and I want as many people as possible to use our facilities. The choir provides an artistic and educational opportunity to community members, and it provides another entertainment option for the audiences at their concerts.”

Piarulli said COCC has done a good job publicizing the class, with a write-up in its catalogue for Summer 2019 continuing education classes. That’s a whole term before the choir class starts.

Large response

So far, the response has been better than anyone expected, with 85 people signing an interest list with COCC, Piarulli said.

The number of students won’t be official until people start officially registering for the fall term, but organizers are expecting a full class.

“If you want a spot, you’d better hurry,” said Mariann Slavkovsky, who will be Piarulli’s accompanist, playing piano for the class.

Slavkovsky, who met Piarulli at the St. Thomas choir, is a local music instructor. She jumped at the chance to work with the community choir.

“I just think this is an opportunity to have a creative endeavor with people of different backgrounds and different experiences, to have something different to offer in our community,” Slavkovsky said. “The arts are alive and well in Redmond but underappreciated.”

The cost for the fall term is $39, which compares to $119 for the summer mandolin and banjo classes. Piarulli said he wanted to keep the price low to appeal to the entire community.

The class will meet once a week for two hours on Mondays starting at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23, until it wraps up with a public concert on Dec. 14 or 15, likely at Community Presbyterian Church, Piarulli said. It will be offered again in the spring as a class people can take multiple times.

“I have two goals and two expectations for every rehearsal, and that’s that they learn something and that they have fun,” Piarulli said. “Even people who don’t read music, I hope they learn something about reading the language of music. I think having fun is a big part of it.”

Piarulli has been checking YouTube for clips of different choirs and getting information from potential choir members on their level of experience. They plan for the group to perform some traditional choir music, as well as spiritual and gospel songs and some more popular pieces, like Broadway showtunes.

Suzanne Yeakey, who met Piarulli at St. Thomas, where she is a cantor in the choir, is one of the more experienced people who plans to join. She said she’s been singing since she was 2.

Having a place for more people to sing is important for the city, Yeakey said.

“I think Redmond is so full of talent, and sometimes people don’t want to travel 10 or 15 miles to do something they can do in their own backyard,” she said. “I just think, culturally, anything we can do to get music and art at the forefront of people’s minds, it is a beautiful and valuable endeavor.”

Carol Crossen, meanwhile, has mainly sung in her car and at karaoke, but decided to leap into the choir partly because of her battle with breast cancer. She said she feels fortunate to be able to take part in fun activities.

“I’m just always looking for stuff to do and want to be a bigger part of the community,” she said. “I was looking through the community college listings and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to do this.’ ”

Piarulli hopes the class brings people a greater appreciation of choir music.

“They experience the joy of singing in a group and getting better as a group, maybe gaining an appreciation of different styles of music,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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