The gift of music is a powerful tool to reach hearts and minds in ways the spoken word cannot. The music program at Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) in Spangle, Wash., encourages students to develop their talents for lifetime involvement in music, whether in their local churches or community music groups.
“Music is a gift that can be a lifelong blessing to the performer and listener alike,” says Dean Kravig, band and orchestra director. Within the past eight years, Kravig developed a string orchestra and full symphonic orchestra. They perform in various venues in addition to accompanying many of the choral groups.
Curtis Anderson, choral and voice director, has been at UCA since 1999. When he arrived, he added a vocal octet to the voice options. “I was so impressed when I heard La Sierra University’s octet under the direction of William Chunestudy in the ’90s,” Anderson recalls. “I wanted to bring that to UCA.”
Anderson helps the vocal octet members learn the music and then allows them to determine the musical aspects like dynamics, tempo and text interpretation. “My goal is to challenge my best singers to another level,” Anderson adds.
Because of UCA’s long-standing tradition of excellence in music, about 70 percent of the students are involved in some aspect of music each year.
Ronnie Anderson, senior, has played the trumpet for six years in the UCA band, starting with two years while a student at UCA Elementary School, and joined the vocal octet his junior year. He enjoyed playing with Walla Walla University’s honor band his junior year, but feels “the best part of the vocal octet is singing with the best musicians in the school.”
Raina Hernandez, senior, has worked for Kravig for the past two years and played in the UCA orchestra for the past three years. “I like pushing my playing ability and learning different aspects of music, as well as bonding with other students," she says.
Contract teachers round out the strong music program. Krista Dalrymple brings piano expertise, while Julia Salerno teaches violin and viola and Denika Kleinmann focuses on cello. Approximately 50 percent of the students are involved in either private voice or instrument lessons.
UCA offers many opportunities for the students to participate in music including band, brass choir, choir, Choraliers, flute ensemble, orchestra, sax quartet, symphony orchestra, vocal octet and wind ensemble. Other ensembles are arranged based on the instrumental strengths of that year.
“This life is like a dress rehearsal for heaven,” Kravig says, “and our talents need to be developed and fine-tuned here for God’s use and for His glory.”