Spreading Holiday Cheer Through F.A.M.E. at EKU

Nov 30, 2017

Music is one way young students  in a program at Eastern Kentucky University will  help spread holiday cheer.

As WEKU’s Cheri Lawson reports, kids with the Foster Academy for Musical Excellence hope to offer the gift of familiar tunes this season.


On a recent Tuesday evening, 11 school children rehearse with a choir that’s part of the Foster Academy for  Musical Excellence,  otherwise known as F.A.M.E .

Under  the direction of Judy Ridings, the chorus  is getting ready for its annual Holiday Concert to be performed at the EKU Center for the Arts.

Judy’s overall goals for the first through sixth-graders include preparing for performance, education and learning to love singing.

Judy: “So we use hand signals and the do, re , me fa, sol la ti, do. Not just to teach the scale but to teach relationships between pitches. It has been the most effective way that I have found to teach that to children. And also to teach them to read the music as well .”

Every child is wide-eyed and attentive to Judy’s hand signals that cue them to sit with both feet planted on the floor.

On this night, Judy’s excited to review with  them a piece based on the Tallis Cannon, a melodie composed by Thomas Tallis in the 16th century.

Judy: “When we’re singing we’re communicating and so it’s important that the children be able to sing something they can understand and relate to in some way. The Tallis Cannon is also another great way for them to begin to learn part singing.”

F.A.M.E .is a preparatory department for the school of music at EKU and was named after Stephen Foster, who’s  recognized as the father of American music. He wrote My Old Kentucky Home and many other standards.

Teachers with F.A.M.E . train students from pre-school through high school in voice, piano and strings.

Director Rachel Taylor designed F.A.M.E. 7 years ago with only 10 students. Now there are about 200 students and 20 instructors.

Dr.  Taylor says her goal is to prepare the kids for a future in music and hopefully at EKU.

Dr Taylor:  “I see a lot of the students come a long way. We just had someone that made the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra . A lot of our students have made Governor School for the Arts. That’s a three week program in the summer and maybe only eight pianists are selected in the state and so a couple of ours have made it. We’re really happy. It’s very competitive.”

Taylor is holding piano lessons for three sisters who are home-schooled and also preparing for a holiday concert. Shayla Doll is 16 .

Shayla : “I’m playing Dance of the Wind and it’s a very energetic piece. It’s definitely my style of piano and it took a lot of hard work. But when you really love to play a certain piece it makes it not work, it makes it fun.”

Whether it’s piano or singing, all the  students seem to be enjoying their  F.A.M.E. experience.

Chorus members Bryson Hammonds, Jules Combs, Danistan Flynn and Lily and Sam Barber agree, choir is worth it!