Voci Soli performs during the Black History Month Concert at San Bernardino Valley College on February 24, 2017. Photo: LaVar Godoy.
SAN BERNARDINO, California?—Voci Soli is more than a performance group: it’s a family.
The audition-only choral ensemble began as a club five years ago, and is now a class at San Bernardino Valley College. “Voci Soli” is Italian for “solo voice,” and students are taught by Madeleine “Matie” Scully?—?the college’s performing arts director— not only how to sing in a choir, but also how to perform on their own.
“She is driven to make sure we are well-educated and confident,” Rebecca Ward, Scully’s executive student assistant, said.
Throughout the year, Voci Soli holds several performances, including the annual Black History Month concert, featuring gospels. They cover a wide spectrum of sacred and secular pieces, and advanced students have been able to perform pieces they’ve written themselves. There are also small ensembles that branch off from Voci Soli, like “The Basement,” an audition-only a cappella group comprised of four bass singers.
Voci Soli has “people who have been singing for 10, 20 years, people right out of high school, and people like me, who were scared to sing,” Ward said. “It’s a good mix. We try to take care of one another, and stay in touch. After performances, we like to go eat and hang out together, or have pool parties. It’s a big family.”
When Ward first arrived at SBVC after attending Cal Baptist, Voci Soli didn’t yet exist. Ward is a dancer and performer, but had never been a singer. She met Scully and “loved choir and being able to sing,” something that was “completely out of my element.”
When she returned to SBVC to earn her business degree, she was thrilled to make it into Voci Soli. Working with Scully, Ward says she has been taught that the “beauty of your voice will come from learning how to use your voice.”
This year, there are 29 students and three faculty members in Voci Soli. They spend six hours in the classroom, where peer-teaching is emphasized, and even more time practicing on their own.
“It’s a very dedicated group,” Ward said. “We take it very seriously what we do, just like you would train for a sport.”
Singers of all backgrounds are welcome, and Scully focuses on “really making sure your voice is healthy and using correct techniques,” Ward said. “Everyone comes to class knowing their notes and the rhythm, and Matie cleans up the rest, making it the most beautiful sound in the world.”
The members of Voci Soli also believe in giving back. They have invited local high school singers to perform Handel’s Messiah on campus with the group during the holidays and hosted the Magic Music Room for elementary school students?—?Voci Soli performs kids’ favorites, sharing a positive message in a fun environment.
“I strongly feel children need art and music to be really well-rounded and to help with their education,” Ward, who owns a dance studio, said. “Most music programs have been cut or were nonexistent, and it feels really good to share this with the community.”