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Making space for emotions by making Fire

Bradley’s Chorale Choir
Photo via Jenny Schiliro

Expressing your true emotions can leave you feeling vulnerable and unsafe. This year, Director of Choral Activities Dr. Cory Boulton decided that her goal was to create a safe space for those vulnerabilities through the Bradley’s Chorale Choir course.

Chorale is an auditioned choir made of mostly non-music majors. The course is designed to nurture the love of music in students who plan to go into other career fields.

Over spring break, Chorale took their first tour since the COVID-19 pandemic began and played for churches and high schools throughout Colorado, Missouri and Illinois.

“With television arts, I don’t really get that music aspect in my day-to-day,” junior television arts major Jake Budz said. “Being able to take Chorale on, I get to sing every single day and sing with people that I love to sing with.”

While visiting high schools, Chorale members learned pieces to perform with high school choir students. The goal was to inspire those students and to show them that music is a passion that you can pursue your whole life even in the midst of a different career path.

“Most people that continue to make music in their life continue to make music because they’re inspired by other music makers,” Boulton said. “It’s kind of just a big love fest – like, ‘You’re doing an awesome job, I love how you’re doing this, this, this and this. Keep doing this.’”

The program this year was built around the song “Fire,” which is an expression of the students’ innermost thoughts. It’s an explosive piece that features singers wailing, cackling and screaming against the beat of a war drum.

“The whole idea is that you’re letting out your inner fire,” sophomore game art major Jenny Schiliro said. “We all tense up before the song starts and we all just let it all out.” 

While sharing their emotions, the students also shared homes. Volunteers in the communities that they performed in opened their homes to house and feed the choir in small groups. These volunteers were members of the churches they visited that wanted to help bring music to their neighborhoods.

“It’s crazy that people take the time out of their day to take in people, all out of the kindness of their hearts,” Budz said.

Meeting these individuals and learning their stories contributed to the emotional truth of the pieces they performed.

“It turned out to be such an amazing interaction of respectful interaction [and] learning on both sides,” Boulton said. “I think in the end, both parties came out feeling so much more understood and heard.”

As the tour wrapped up in St. Mark Catholic Church, directly next to Bradley’s campus, Chorale was ready to put it all on the table. The performance left several audience members in tears and got a standing ovation.

“In the end, feeling safe enough to access our inner forces is what gives others permission to find their own,” Boulton said.

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