Girl Power in the Form of Song

Female organizations on nearly every college campus are trying to make their mark in an equal society world. At Ohio University, Ohio Women’s Ensemble, the all-female, college-level choir makes every effort possible to share the power of women in the world though singing.

The ensemble began to make massive strides about two years ago musically after its members received a new choral director, Dr. Paul Mayhew.

Back in 2013, the group only had 46 members – many of whom were music majors. Now in 2016, the group has reached a capacity higher than ever, and now contains 113 talented women who love to sing. More than two-thirds of OWE’s current members happen to be majoring in things that have nothing to do with music.

Beyond the rapid expansion in membership, these alto and soprano-ranged singers successfully auditioned to perform at the Ohio Music Education Association Professional Development Conference, to be held Friday, January 29.

The conference provides every music teacher in the state of Ohio a chance to catch up with other music teachers in the state. (Perhaps your high school music teacher went to this event each year, too!) Every year, several school-level music ensembles perform robust song selections for music teachers who attend.

Last April, OWE was one of 150 music ensembles to submit recorded audition materials for the event, and only about 10 percent of auditionees were invited to perform.

All of Fall Semester was spent preparing for this one performance.

While OWE’s invitation to the conference was exciting, the OMEA standards handed each member a heap of work to do. While learning college-level music is assumably difficult, many of the pieces the choir plans to perform are at a level of their own: one song, “Taylor the Latte Boy,” requires all members to act the song out, another song, “Kafal Sviri,” is written entirely in Bulgarian and many involve harmonies which are hard to learn.

OWE Vice President and instrumental music education major, Chloe Reis, is thrilled to see the group she leads work so hard.

“We have made so much musical progress and, lucky for us, it hasn't gone unnoticed. I think the Women's Ensemble is great symbol of female success at the collegiate level,” Reis said. “Not many all-female groups get chosen to perform at events like OMEA, and it really goes to show that even if you're not a music major you can be involved in a high quality ensemble at the collegiate level. I'm so incredibly proud of the progress that has been made over my years in the group and I know it will only continue to improve.”

Reis and other members all seem to agree that all their hard work has paid off. While the group is partly a social group to make friends in, the group shows up three days a week for an hour-long rehearsal. As soon as rehearsal begins, singers get right to work. Often times the group will manage to learn an entirely different song in the matter of one rehearsal as a result of their work ethic.

Members try to use their work ethic to prove just how much power women from all walks of college life really have. As OWE Publicity Chair and senior graphic design major, Kelsey Hanson says, “This group symbolizes power for college women in every way. Just the simple fact that in the space of two to three school years we have doubled in size and improved our musicality tenfold is enough to prove that these women can get things done and do them well.”

With OWE’s grand OMEA performance just days away, the group is excited to finally hit the OMEA stage at the Hyatt Hotel in Downtown Cincinnati.

OWE’s set will be about 45-minutes-long with a face-kicking song to start, then go to a slow song, then another fast song … and so on.

Overall, the group speaks to a message of equality that women have been yearning for forever (especially lately), as well as talent. If one fancies hard work, music and a chance to sing in college regardless of major, this is definitely a group to join. Membership is audition-free, but just a bit of previous singing experience and enrollment in the Women’s Ensemble class is all that’s required.

For a taste of what’s to come Friday, listen and watch the group sing one of their toughest songs yet, “Now, Let Me Fly.”