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The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

UA Choirs partake in #ChamberChallenge

Choral students commit to daily devotions to prepare for their upcoming Oct. 15 concert.
Olivia Kurylo
UA Choirs rehearsing for their “Devotion” concert.

The question “how are you preparing for your upcoming concert?” usually has a predictable response that mostly involves practice making perfect. For their upcoming concert, “Devotion,” The University of Akron Choirs cannot offer such an easy answer.  

Aside from rehearsing daily, pouring over sheets of music and taking diligent notes, the ensemble is looking beyond their music binders to explore the idea of devotion on a personal level. Members are participating in a 30-day commitment they call the #ChamberChallenge. 

UA Choirs Director Dr. Bucoy-Calavan centered her ensemble’s upcoming concert around the idea of “Devotion.” To prepare to express the essence of devotion to an audience, the students are exploring and experiencing devotion themselves by putting energy into self-selected daily devotions.  

UA Choirs Director Dr. Bucoy-Calavan. (Olivia Kurylo)

 The ensemble welcomed the month-long challenge posed by their director and tackled it head-on, displaying their devotion to themselves and each other. Bucoy-Calavan hopes that the experience will help her students battle burnout. 

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“In both of the choirs, concert and chamber, we’re really thinking about how to be devoted to the group, how to be devoted to everything we do,” senior Kristen Flinner said. According to Flinner, Dr. Bucoy-Calavan always says “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” 

UA Choirs member Kristen Flinner. (Olivia Kurylo)

Flinner chose running for her chamber challenge. Similarly, ensemble member Emma Cleveland dedicated herself to eliminating added sugars. In each case, both women transformed their way of thinking about hard work and commitment to themselves and to their classmates.  

“I’ve been practicing every day, whether it be five minutes, thirty minutes, or more… whatever I can get in,” Cleveland said. She has also been stretching herself through her #ChamberChallenge elimination diet.   

“It has been tough, but the more that I’ve stayed devoted to it and done it, it has become easier,” she said. “I’m now like ‘hey, I can do this if I put my mind to it,’” Cleveland said.  

While some ensemble members chose health-conscious goals for their challenge, others took a spiritual or creative approach to prepare for the performance on Sunday, Oct. 15. 

Isabella Anderson, member and student assistant for the choral program, decided to devote herself to her writing. 

“With this challenge, I am able to bring my writing back,” she said. “It’s something that I have always wanted to do, where I just want to take an hour a day to do it.” 

UA Choirs members Isabella Anderson (left) and Emma Cleveland (right). (Olivia Kurylo)

Anderson’s perspective about devotion has shifted during the challenge. “You can love something, but it’s different when you actually put in the

time,” she said. Anderson is recognizing that devoting the time day-in and day-out to her writing is what she should be doing to become the writer she wants to be. 

In creating the challenge, Dr. Bucoy-Calavan was careful to keep current student culture in mind. She reflected carefully on how the COVID-19  pandemic left students isolated as they struggled to cope mentally and phsyically with the virus while trying to work towards their  education.  

“With… students getting more and more burnt out, or experiencing mental health issues and not knowing how to find passion in music again, I wanted them to experience something that has nothing to do with music, but also be able to flex that devotion muscle, if you will,” Bucoy-Calavan said.  

Devotion to everyday aspects outside of education played a major role in the ensemble being able to step back from their music and return to it with a fresh mind. As they positioned themselves back behind their music binders, the ensemble found that they connected to the music more through the experiences in their personal lives.  

The meaning behind “Devotion” for each singer is now tethered to their various non-musical devotions, including commitment to faith, family, friends and ultimately themselves. The theme proves significant in opening students’ eyes to how life should be balanced. 

UA Choirs member Elyce Enrique. (Olivia Kurylo)

Elyce Enrique has found the devotion exercise valuable, and as she reflects back on it,  she can’t help but wonder if maybe she’s not giving enough time and energy to the people and aspects of her life she loves so much. 

“I think it’s really helping me learn to get that work-life balance so I can be devoted to everything I love and not just get so caught up in doing my school work,” Elyce Enrique said. 

 Bucoy-Calavan rooted her interpretation of the broad term “devotion” in repertoire that illustrate commitment in various ways including devotion to God (Magnificat, the Latin text about Mary); devotion to a loved one (Eric Whitacre’s ‘A Boy and a Girl’ and ‘Home’); devotion past death (Jake Runestad’s ‘And So I Go On’), and devotion to yourself through trust and ambition (‘By Night’ by Elain Hagenberg). 

 “The music spans all different types of devotion,” Bucoy-Calavan said.  

What devotion is Bucoy-Calavan preparing herself for the UA Choirs’ “Devotion” performance? “Aside from studying my music, we do have a staff of wonderful students who help me prepare for the concert,” Bucoy Calavan said. If you ask her students, expect one answer. She is devoted to them. 

After months of preparation outside the typical, The University of Akron Choirs will present “Devotion” at  4 p.m. on Oct. 15 at Fairlawn Lutheran Church. For more information see the link below for the official Facebook event page. 

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Olivia Kurylo
Olivia Kurylo, Correspondent
Olivia Kurylo is a second-year student majoring in English. She plans to minor in Creative Writing and earn a certificate in Professional Social Media. Olivia hopes to pursue a career in the Publishing and Editing fields. In her spare time, Olivia enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family.  Fun fact: My favorite movie is Little Women (2019). 
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