Kara Overstake, a member of the Eastern High School choir directed by Lori Baldridge, has been competitively selected to participate in the 2015 All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. The Choir meets for five days of intensive rehearsals preceding the Ohio State Fair and performs six to eight concerts every day of the Fair, which began on July 29 and runs through Aug. 9. In addition to rehearsals and performance, the youth learn about vocal health and have the opportunity to build relationships that, for many Choir alumni, last a lifetime.
The All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir was founded in 1963 by Glenville D. Thomas, a native of Wales and a long-time vocal music director at Zanesville High School. He organized the group to allows Ohio’s high school singers to share a musical experience similar to that enjoyed by members of the All-Ohio State Fair Band since that group’s inception in 1925.
For 29 years, until his death in December 1991, Thomas led the Youth Choir in concerts for thousands of visitors at the Ohio State Fair, directed them in a number of European tours, and took them to several national parades. Championed by four-term governor James A. Rhodes, the choir has sung for gubernatorial inaugurations and was named Ohio’s “Singing Ambassadors of Goodwill.”
From 1992 to 2013, the All-Ohio Youth Choir was led by Charles R. Snyder of Coshocton who continued many of the choir’s traditions. He and his staff emphasized vocal health, vitally important for the Fair’s outdoor performances and unpredictable weather-related conditions, and commissioned new works which the Youth Choir has premiered. In 1995, the All-Ohio Youth Choir was incorporated with the help of choir friend, attorney Michael P. McCullougg.
In 2014, Jon C. Peterson, Director of Choral Activities and an assistant music professor at Malone University (Stark County), was named as the director for the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. In his inaugural year, Dr. Peterson led the AOSFYC in music centered on the theme “Many Stories, One Voice.”
The 200 members of the choir are selected each spring on the basis of their ability and experience, the recommendation of their high school choral director, and the consent and support of their parent or guardian. Five days before the opening of the Ohio State Fair, the new choir meets at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus and launches into a rigorous schedule that includes vocal training, sectional and full rehearsals, solo auditions, and marching instruction. Once the fair opens, the Youth Choir sings six to eight concerts a day and marches up to 10 miles a day to various performance sites around the 360 acre fairgrounds.
The All-Ohio Youth Choir has been described by members as “an experience in living,” “Introduction to College 101,” “a secular retreat,” and “the musical forte of the year.” Parents have applauded the Youth Choir experience as “the finest opportunity for personal growth and development,” and “a life-changing three weeks.” Music educators have complimented the Youth Choir for “good, healthy singing,” for encouraging “wonderful musical spirits,” and for urging the singers to “take that energy back home to their own schools.”