Cotter students perform at the Dorian Vocal Festival: a tradition continues


Emma Jirele

Cotter students Cameron Smith, Hanalei Hocum, Lilianna Herber, and Milana Shira at Luther College for the Dorian Festival.

What’s it like to share a performance space with 1,000 of your peers?

Four Ramblers recently had to find this out when they were selected to participate in the Dorian Vocal Festival.

The Cotter students that participated in the festival were senior Cam Smith and juniors Hana Hocum, Lily Herber, and Milana Shira. Cotter choir director Emma Jirele attended the event with the group.

The Dorian Vocal Festival is an annual honors choir workshop and performance hosted by Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Choir directors nominate stand-out students, and about 1,000 students from around the Midwest were accepted into the Festival Choir this year. They spend a weekend at Luther working with festival leaders and students from other schools which culminates in a Sunday night concert, which was held on Sunday, January 9th.

The Dorian Trip was definitely the highlight of my year so far, I didn’t expect there to be 1,000 other kids there

— Lily Herber

Cotter choir director Emma Jirele led the group and has carried on a tradition started by former choir director Cathy Snyder, who took groups to the festival for more than 30 years.

“The festival is one of the highlights of the students’ high school choir experience, ” Ms. Jirele said.  “They are surrounded by 1,000 other students who are just as passionate about choir as they are, and they are able to create life-long friendships through this experience.  They are also able to experience a taste of college life by staying on campus during the course of the camp, as well as participate in private vocal lessons at the Jenson-Noble Hall of Music with Luther vocal faculty.  It is a high-quality choral experience that I look forward to nominating students for each year.”

A choir comprised of high school juniors and seniors perform at the culminating concert at the Dorian Vocal Festival. 

The students who were chosen to attend echoed Ms. Jirele’s thoughts about the value of the experience.

“The Dorian Vocal Festival was fantastic.  The directors, instrumentalists, and individuals were outstanding.  I had so much fun meeting new people and learning new singing techniques. Dorian provided me with a great experience and learning opportunities,” junior Hana Hocum said.

“The Dorian Trip was definitely the highlight of my year so far, I didn’t expect there to be 1,000 other kids there,” Cotter junior Lily Herber said. “One of the first things we did was warm up and the second everyone sang, my eyes widened and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it sounded. During the final performance, I would have to say that I have never heard such a wonderful sound.”

The Dorian Vocal Festival directors take a bow at the end of the Sunday performance

“All the leaders were so nice, and I especially enjoyed the soprano and alto leader. She told us stories about her life and she had to be one of the funniest people I have ever met.  It was fun working with kids from other schools, I became really good friends with one girl and we still talk through text all the time  I highly encourage students to take the chance to go to the Dorian Festival if they get a chance,” Herber added.

Cotter senior Cam Smith was also impressed with his experience at the Festival.

“Dorian was amazing,  I loved working with the leaders of Dorian to enhance my singing. Another highlight was the final concert when we were able to showcase all that we learned from the weekend to our parents, that was truly amazing. I expected Dorian to be fun, but not as fun as it truly was. I loved every second of being there, especially the people I met. Dorian was a unique experience, and I am thankful to Ms. Jirele for making it happen,” Smith said.

Choir director Emma Jirele, Milana Shira, Lily Herber, and Hana Hocum enjoying some down time at Dorian (photo: Milana Shira)