With a simple, stapled songbook and some old campfire songs, retired choral director Mr. Jim Heiks and his merry band of rock star carolers told the story of music. We found them loosely grouped under a shade tree on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Cory Chisel, Langhorne Slim, and Hillary Reynolds, cheerfully singing children’s songs as Cory’s high school music teacher strummed guitar. That’s how music begins. A small crowd gathered, sang and swelled. Girl choir members past and present lent sweet harmonies. Latecomers shared song sheets with kind people they’d never met. In the front row, a small boy in a white baseball cap earnestly tried to sing along. That’s how music grows. The somewhat impromptu concert happened at Lawrence University on the east end of the Mile of Music Festival. The school, with its renowned music conservatory, plays a central character in the thriving Fox Valley Music scene, home of the Appleton Boychoir (alumnus Cory Chisel) and the Appleton girl choir (alumna Hillary Reynolds and last year’s headliner Mel Flannery). Among the 220+ bands and solo artists performing at the hugely successful Mile of Music Festival, many grew up in the Valley, where a collective passion for music education has given birth to an impressive number of professional musicians. That’s how music lasts. We loved every moment of this year’s Mile of Music Festival, the beautiful ballads, the sweaty serenades, rollicking rock, and nervous debuts. Mostly, though, we liked the transcendent celebration of genuine music talent and the little kids who stood right in front of stages, looked up and thought, “Someday, that’s going to be me.” That’s how music lives.
Here’s a taste of the sing along. With super human discipline I refrained from crooning along as I recorded this little ditty. You’re welcome.