CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Appalachian Children’s Chorus, which has gained worldwide acclaim, will soon have new leadership.
The members, made up mostly of children from West Virginia has built a strong reputation both nationally and internationally in the music world. The group is the passion of longtime artistic director Selena Midkiff, who announced her retirement Wednesday.
“Our kids show up at various festivals, internationally and they are always wonderfully prepared and wonderfully behaved,” Midkiff said.
Midkiff is the founder and has been the choir’s director for 31 years. She started in 1990 when the idea was floated by a member of the music staff at the University of Charleston who was also the wife of the director of the West Virginia Symphony.
“Frequently the symphony required children as part of their productions and she would audition kids and train kids to do individual performances. She said, ‘Let’s start a children’s choir.’ So I did,” Midkiff explained.
Over time, the children have performed at functions worldwide. They are a beloved group and have always served as great ambassadors for West Virginia. Midkiff said she always wanted to break the stereotype in which people believed there was no kind of cultural talent in the heart of the Appalachian hills. She thinks that thought process has been forever changed with the work of the chorus.
“From day one I tried to make every letter that went out and every thing we did as classy looking as we could afford it to be. I think we’ve done that and done it well,” she said.
Midkiff will retire from her position a year from now–but she said she’s only able to do it because she thinks the right person is in charges to carry on the mission. Chris Brown returned from Charlotte last year where he had tended to a group of youth singers. Midiff had high praise for the young director not only for his music skills, but his tech savviness.
According to Midkiff, Brown was able to handle the virtual learning session with great authority during the past year while she recovered from by-pass surgery. She said her six months away gave her a chance to see his work in action.
“The very fact he taught all of this year and we are going to co-teach next year, makes it the perfect scenario,” she said.
She will remain as the artistic director as well as a member of the board of directors. Following the Appalachian Festival of Young Voices in 2022, Midkiff will officially turn over her baton, with all its incredible memories, to Brown , who will become the Artistic Director and director of both the Camerata and Concert choirs. However, she will still be active in supporting ACC.
“A lot of life lessons I think we’ve taught and supported. We’ve tried to make a difference in these kids’ lives and we’ve tried to make them better human beings,” she said.