McGilvray has gift for coaching singers

Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2001

A bout ten years ago I was singing and playing banjo in a bluegrass band. My friend Jimmy called up with a breathless recommendation. Jimmy had taken a week-long singing workshop in Fairbanks with this guest instructor and now this teacher was coming to Juneau. He was great. Jimmy was sure that I'd love the class and my singing would benefit, so sure, he said he'd repay the cost if I was disappointed.

It was about 5 degrees but I drove out to the Mormon Church and found this classroom. About a dozen strangers were there and I think everyone felt a little weird. Byron McGilvray, the teacher, came in and got everyone on their feet and relaxed. Jimmy was right: He was great. I took voice classes in college but they didn't begin to compare to the quality of instruction and the insight McGilvray offered. The next year I was calling up people to recommend the class.

The group voice class is an annual event, part of the Mid-Winter Vocal Festival. Over the years that class has grown and the festival has grown as well. I've been back virtually every year and I'm not the only one to repeat the class.

There are plenty of folks who would like to sing better, for a variety of personal reasons, not necessarily because they want to perform. McGilvray is a gifted teacher and has a knack for working with beginners. He's able to pinpoint the tips singers most need for whatever level they are at. Experienced vocalists tell me he has a gift for working with them, too, and I believe it.

The group voice class meets three times, for an hour and a half, Jan. 7, 9, and 11, at Chapel by the Lake. It's well worth $30.

Many folks in the group class also participate in the Festival Chorus and rub shoulders with more experienced singers. The choir includes about 80 singers. That group meets seven times beginning Jan. 6 to work on a variety of material ranging from Bach to Broadway. The chorus performs a concert Jan. 13 at Chapel by the Lake. For more information check out the article on the MidWinter Vocal Festival here in This Week.

Reggae singer Sister I-Live from Jamaica, via Oakland, Calif., is performing in Juneau this weekend. I'm delighted that Sister I-Live is playing three nights this week, since I won't be able to hear her on New Year's Eve. She and her reggae band play Friday and Saturday at the Hangar Ballroom, and Monday night on the pub side of the Hangar.

I talked to her this week and she sounds great on the phone. She actually sang part of one of her songs during the interview. This promises to be a good show and a fun dance as well for all those who love to skank and boogie.

Another upcoming music event is a free holiday concert. Tenor Mark Adams will sing at noon Friday, with Jill Mueller playing the Kimball Theatre organ, in the State Office Building Atrium.

A couple of sporting events are slated for this week. Fans of high school basketball will definitely want to catch the PrincessCapital City Classic is this weekend. High school teams will be up from California and Washington to compete, and perennial state basketball contenders East Anchorage boys and Wasilla girls will also play. The tournament opens at 1 p.m. Thursday and runs though Saturday at JuneauDouglas High School Gymnasium.

The first Juneau Ski Club race of the season is Saturday up at Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Eaglecrest is also sponsoring a ski and snowboard camp, beginning Jan. 1 and running through Jan. 4. It's a special event for the holiday break. Call 586-5284 to register.

January is often a slow month in Juneau for arts and entertainment events, but not his year. The Fireside Program at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center has a great lineup of presentations every Friday evening through March, ranging from a talk on Southeast brown bears to a look underwater at the local shipwrecks. The series begins Jan. 4 and all 12 of these presentations are free.

The Alaska Science and Technology Foundation will also be offering series of four sciencebased presentations in February that are free and open though the public.

The JuneauDouglas City Museum has done a great job this past year developing the art gallery there, and they will be featuring exhibits and hands-on workshops throughout the winter. The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council will continue to feature local artists in monthly exhibitions, and photographer David Job will be highlighted in January. Check out the calendar on page 3 for a full list of events.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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