Big Voice: The Power of Music Education to Transform Lives

Jeffe Huls, choral director at California’s Santa Monica High School, is known for being a demanding instructor who expects excellence from his choral students. This enlightening program follows Huls through the school year as he works with the 32 students in the school ensemble, the Madrigals. The animated teacher believes that the choir will be more successful if the kids share respect and affection, so he organizes a two-day retreat to Big Bear, California, filled with team-building exercises, games, and rehearsals. As the year progresses, choral members and parents are seen helping with fund-raisers because Huls’ salary is the only item in the school budget; everything else—including sheet music, which costs more than $7,000 annually—is funded through donations. We also see the effervescent choir members rehearsing and practicing for the state competition and end-of-the-year concert. But not everything runs smoothly; the kids are sometimes distracted. As one teen observes, “The girls are talkative and the boys are rowdy.” In interviews, the students, who are seen in school and home settings, talk about their lives, schoolwork, and music class. In the state competition and impressive final concert, we are treated to top-notch, meaningful, and moving performances. This thoughtful film shares insights on the power of the arts and the work of a personable, dedicated choir director who teaches five classes daily.— Candace Smith, Booklist Review

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