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Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy has a busy year ahead

January 10th, 2014 9:51 am by Amanda Marsh

Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy has a busy year ahead

The Mountain Empire Children’s Choral Academy has a busy and song-filled year ahead.

Between a special performance of “Carmina Burana” with Symphony of the Mountains, a cabaret fundraising event and trips to Chattanooga and Greece, artistic director Jane DeLoach Morison has a lot on her plate.

“As a teacher, there could not a more ideal job,” she said. “I get to work with enthusiastic young people. It’s an absolute joy to do it.”

Last semester, about 100 youth in grades 4 through 12, from across Northeast Tennessee and beyond, made up the MECCA roster. The choral academy is divided into two groups – The East Tennessee Children’s Choir for grades 4 through 8 and the Highlands Youth Ensemble for grades 9 through 12, plus changed male voices in eighth grade.

Both groups practice every Monday at Central Baptist in Johnson City and cover a wide range of repertoire, including everything from Renaissance, classical, 1800s, early 20th century, songs originating in the Appalachians, and original works from local composers and MECCA members.

“Any young person who really loves to sing, this is the place for you,” said Morison, who has directed at MECCA since 2007. “We really provide solid vocal training. Especially with younger voices, a choir is the best thing for them.”

The young singers are taught how to perform all the vocal parts, as well as proper posture, diction and how to sing in different languages.

In the coming months, Morison and her MECCA singers will put a lot of these traits to use as they prepare to perform “Carmina Burana” in March.

“It’s a big work that’s rarely performed because you have to have an adult and children’s choir,” Morison said. “I told the kids that this is something they will tell their kids and grandkids about it. It’s really big.”

Additionally, the Highlands Youth Ensemble will put the final touches on the Annual Valentine's Cabaret Fundraiser that will feature a variety of solos and duets, plus a dessert reception and silent auction at Northeast State Community College on Feb. 15 and at Barter Theatre on Feb. 17.

This event will raise funds for MECCA and the Highland Youth Ensemble’s upcoming trip to Syros, Greece. About 30 members of the ensemble will attend the two-week Festival of the Aegean and will have the opportunity to work with renowned composer John Rutter.  

In June, the East Tennessee Children’s Choir will perform at the American Choral Directors Association State Conference in Chattanooga. Morison says it’s an honor for MECCA to be invited since a children’s choir hasn’t performed at the event in several years.

Given the packed performance schedule for 2014, Morison is looking to add more voices to MECCA. The choral academy is holding open auditions Jan. 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Central Baptist Church. No appointment is required and children grades 4 through 8 will be paired in groups for 30-minute audition sessions. No previous choir experience is required.

The Highlands Youth Ensemble will also hold auditions for grades 9 through 12 by appointment only. A prepared solo is required and the audition will take about 45 minutes.

“All that it takes to be a part of MECCA is a love of music,” Morison said. “We have kids from all backgrounds. We have kids that have never heard of classical piece and then they realize how it has withstood the test of time. They are all different from one another, but love to sing.”

Tuition is required to be a member of MECCA, but assistance and scholarships are available, Morison said. MECCA also plans to start a "Chorister" program for singers in grades 1 through 3 this fall, as well as choral art camps this summer. For more information about the choral academy or upcoming events, visit  Or contact Jane DeLoach Morison at or 276-645-5785.

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