mp chorus

The 2019-20 Mary Persons Girls Chorus gets its day started with a series or exercises and vocal warm-ups. The 60-plus members of this group, along with members of the Boys Chorus, will present their first concert of the season on Sept. 30 at Monroe County Fine Arts Center. Over his seven years as Choral Director at Mary Persons Charles Hernandez has grown the program from about 30 members to almost five times that many and has led the group to numerous state competition awards. (Photo/Dennis Smith)

The award-winning Mary Persons Chorus will present its annual Fall Concert at the beautiful, spacious Monroe County Fine Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30--a full concert before a live audience of their best friends, family and critics. This is what is in store for the newly-inducted Choral group at the high school.

“Oh, we will be ready,” commented MPHS Choral Director Charles Hernandez. “We may not be as good as we are going to get, but we will put on a great concert.” 

Great concerts and putting on great performances are second nature to Mr. Hernandez and the Choral program. He has been challenging, teaching, molding and inspiring young singers for 20-plus years. 

He prides himself in being with Mary Persons for the last eight years and watching as his singers have achieved superior recognition in State of Georgia High School competitions. And, the Bulldog singers have done this for each of his eight years.

When asked for the formula behind his successful tenure in his Choral Director role for MPHS/Monroe County Schools, Charles shared this insight, “We have been dedicated to building a feeder program that starts in the lower grades. Our very capable teachers expose the youngsters to the fun and excitement of music and performing before a live audience. As the student moves up from grade to grade, we try to polish the skills a little more. Some students stick with chorus throughout their entire school experience.”  

Hernandez was asked if he is using a popular sports model of building a program that is regularly giving him a new crop of seasoned participants. Hernandez replied, “There are some similarities, but athletics is largely an after-school, extracurricular opportunity for youngsters, while chorus classes take place during the school day for class credit. Some students who would like to be in chorus struggle to take chorus for four continual years (eight credits), because of other scheduling conflicts and students’ interests. We do get a good group of talented youngsters each year, and we do the best we can retaining students in the program.”

Doing the best with the talent each year seems to be a gift that Charles Hernandez possesses. Some of his students have achieved “Superior” ratings in statewide competitions each of his eight years. Some of his students have taken the next step in college or in specialty music academies to extend their learning and pursue music as a career. Many of his students have shared with MEY their respect and love for this great friend and mentor.

Hernandez dismisses his accomplishments and heaps the praise on the team of other teachers with whom he works.  

“If we can get a youngster interested in singing or performing in the early grades and cultivate that interest in Middle School, we likely will end up with another great chorus each year.”

Explain the “hook” in the feeder system. “Teachers like Sandy Watson (music teacher at K.B. Sutton) and her counterparts at T.G. Scott and Hubbard Elementary get the youngsters involved in doing music, singing and presenting an annual Broadway type play. For some youngsters being on stage, entertaining others and singing is the “hook.” We just try to nurture their interest as the years go past. Some will become really committed to our program and some will have had a long-lasting experience.”

The last question from a somewhat awed columnist was, What do you predict from this new group of singers? “We will become a very good choral group, hopefully achieve some positive things for the students and have fun,” Hernandez concluded.

MEY is a fan of the MPHS Performing Arts Department. The Band under the direction of Miles Benson; the Drama group under the guidance of Holly Spires, and the teachers who are in the “feeder system.” Those teachers include Sandy Watson; Emily Rusgrove at Hubbard Elementary; Sheila Kendrick at T.G. Scott Elementary, and Theresa Alexander for Monroe County Middle School.

To really be impressed by the Mary Persons High School Chorus, mark these dates on your calendar: Monday, Dec. 9 for Holiday Concert; Thursday, March 5 for mid-semester Concert, and the season finale on Monday, May 11. All concerts are at the Monroe County Fine Arts Center and begin at 7 p.m.

For information on other Monroe County School activities, visit www.monroe.k12.ga.us

Dennis Smith writes “Monroe Entertains You,” highlighting the entertainment fare offered in Monroe County and the people who make it possible. Smith wants Forsyth to realize and support the riches it has in the cultural arts.