What: Selections from “The Sound of Music”
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 8
Where: Roland Hayes Concert Hall, UTC Fine Arts Center
How much: Admission is free, but donations are requested
* * * * *
Lauren Graves really wanted to go on the study abroad trip to Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany this summer.
A member of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chamber Singers, it would be the chance of a lifetime to perform in some of the most beautiful cathedrals and churches in Europe, including the cathedral where Mozart and his father worked.
But the price is steep—$4,300 per student. Thirty-four vocal ensemble members have signed up for the trip, but the cost may stand in the way of them actually going.
“We’re all college students, so we are having to scrape up all the money we can,” said Graves, a junior majoring in English with a minor in vocal performance.
Graves had an idea, though. If you’re a vocalist and need to raise money for a trip to Austria, why not find something that has a musical connection to the country?
How about “The Sound of Music?”
“We’re literally going to be where ‘The Sound of Music’ was set,” explained Graves, a student in the Honors College who graduated from First Baptist Academy in Knoxville.
On March 8, Graves and other members of the Chamber Singers will perform selections from “The Sound of Music” in the Roland Hayes Concert Hall in the UTC Fine Arts Center.
In something of a curveball, though, while the performance is intended to raise money, there’s no admission fee. Instead, there is an account with Venmo, an online payment service.
“We’re actually doing it in the premise of a telethon,” Graves said. “We have a Venmo account and we’re going to ask for donations. We’re going to ask that everybody donate at least give $5; that’s like the bare minimum, please.”
She said a running tally of the donations will be announced every few minutes, keeping the audience up to date on how much has been raised.
“We’re going to say, ‘Hey, we’ve raised this much money so far, and that means that each of us will be getting this much money to go towards our trip,’” Graves said. “We’re going to be very much emphasizing how much it is because we’re all college students; we are having to scrape up all the money we can.”
For those unfamiliar with “The Sound of Music,” it began as a Broadway play in 1959, winning five Tonys—including Best Musical. In 1965, the film was released and won five Oscars, including Best Picture. Chances are the song “Climb Every Mountain” was performed at some point in your high school life.
Kevin Ford, director of choral activities in the UTC Department of Music and faculty leader on the trip to Austria, said he’s stepping back and letting students handle the entire “Sound of Music” production.
“It is a big undertaking,” he said. “It was their idea, and they have taken off with it, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.”
In the early planning stages, Graves said she needed help with the theatrical elements. She reached out to Isaiah Owens, a senior majoring in theater and the 2022 Homecoming King at UTC. He and Graves are now co-directors of the performance.
He said he doesn’t have to help much with the music, so he’s concentrating on the theatrical aspects of the production.
“These guys are pros when it comes to the music,” said Owens, also an Honors College student. “It’s just hearing them in the music rehearsals and hearing the sound they come with and the harmonies, and I’m so excited.
As president of the Alpha Psi Omega National Theatre Honors Society chapter at UTC, Owens said he wants to create an ongoing connection between the theater and music departments.
“I hope this can give more collaboration towards music and theater,” he said. “I hope through us doing this as a collaboration project that it can open doors for more collaboration in the future.”