Elementary Choir Festival Held at GSAA

Gem State Adventist Academy loves to open its doors to guests, whether that be potential students who come for a tour, sports teams from other schools who come for a good match or elementary students who come for events such as Pathfinder events or music festivals.

In January, fifth- through eighth-grade students were invited to learn and sing with the GSAA choir and chorale under the direction of Stephen Zork, Andrews University professor. This annual event starts on a Friday morning and continues throughout the day with students learning several songs as well as a variety of musical techniques interspersed with break times and meals.

Local students go home in the evening, while those who traveled for the event stay on campus. Sabbath morning, the festival continues with time to worship together. After lunch, parents and community members are invited to enjoy a culminating concert.

Ronnie Anderson, GSAA music director, met Zork at the NAD Educators’ Convention in Phoenix in August 2023. They enjoyed getting acquainted and laid plans for Zork to come to GSAA to direct in the choral festival. Everything was set for the weekend and when the time came, Zork arrived in Idaho from Michigan.

An arctic storm moved in, with extreme winter weather forecast for the weekend, making plans uncertain. After many prayers, Friday morning found a large group of elementary students joining the GSAA singing groups and working hard under Zork’s talent and instruction. Seventy-five students had signed up for the festival, and all but 18 were able to make it, including two of the three groups who had to travel from outside the valley.

On Sabbath morning, many of the elementary students joined the academy for the church service where a GSAA junior preached and students from the senior class led in music. “The younger students were able to see our GSAA students passionate about being involved in church and setting the example for the future, which is very exciting to me,” said Anderson.

By Sabbath afternoon, the young musicians were ready and eager to perform for their audience. While snow fell steadily outside, all were warmed inside with the gorgeous sounds of approximately 100 voices raised in song. All who were able to attend were blessed.

The choral festival benefits all who participate. Some of the elementary students do not have music programs at their schools, and this allows them to sing with others their age. A number of the students will use the festival songs in their schools and when they participate in their home churches. Parents have reported they hear their kids humming the tunes at home or school. The GSAA musicians have the opportunity to mentor, as well as benefit from the instruction.

Anderson concluded, “I praise God that we were able to have this event even through the weather and that everyone arrived and returned home safely.”


Marta Stone

Gem State Adventist Academy teacher and campus communication assistant