The 2022 J. Elwood Roberts/Mars Hill University Choral Festival returned to the Mars Hill University campus on Saturday, February 19. The festival choir was led by renowned conductor and composer Rollo A. Dilworth. Dilworth is Associate Dean and Professor of Choral Music Education at Temple University.
The 2022 Choral Festival brought together 194 high school singers from 68 North Carolina high schools, including Wheatmore seniors Cami Briles, Haley Allen, Haley Hedrick and Lillian Church.
The choral festival began in 1949 and has been held every year since, until COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2021 festival. Organizers have made changes to the festival format, including moving from a format of two days to a one-day format, limiting attendance at the closing concert to attendees and their families and requiring the wearing of masks by all attendees and guests.
The festival accompanist was Cathy Adkins, University Organist, Professor of Music and Executive Director of General Studies at Mars Hill University. The festival coordinators were Jeannie Graeme, choir director at North Buncombe High School, and Rodney Caldwell, director of choral studies and associate professor of music at Mars Hill University.
The J. Elwood Roberts – Mars Hill University Choral Festival was established by the late J. Elwood Roberts, faculty member of the Mars Hill Music Department and choir director of Mars Hill Baptist Church. Roberts wanted to improve choral music in high schools in western North Carolina. While at first the clinic included approximately 15 schools in the nearby vicinity, this annual event has grown to become one of North Carolina’s premier choral festivals and is the longest running such festival in the South. -East. Each year, more than 800 students from approximately 100 high schools audition for the Festival Choir. Guest conductors have included some of America’s most eminent choral musicians.