Smylie sings with OAKE youth choir

April 11, 2019

By Pat Maurer

Bella with Julia Shaw, her Youth Choir Conductor.

Clare 8th grader Bella Smylie, a student of the Terpening Studio of Music for the past two years, was one of 468 students from 184 cities representing 35 US states and one international school who convened in Columbus March 20-23 as members of the 45th Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE) National Conference Choirs.

Bella spent most of the last year preparing for the audition and performance in the Youth Choir. She is one of three Clare County students (Farwell 5th graders Anna Van Buskirk and Asher Yarhouse also performed in the Children’s Choir) and only six children selected from all over Michigan for the OAKE (Organization of American Kodály Educators) Choirs.

Bella’s teacher Stephanie Terpening said, “There were only 6 students from four schools in Michigan who were accepted into the choirs.”

Bella said, ““It was an absolutely amazing experience. I met so many new people from all over the country.  Surprisingly, I was the only one from Michigan in my chorus.  I learned a lot of new music along with new vocal techniques.  I can’t wait to audition next year!  I really appreciate Ms. Terpening for giving me the opportunity.” 

Terpening said, “There were two kids from Brighton, one from Marquette, and the other 3 were all local kids…..along with Bella there were also two children from Farwell Schools that their wonderful choral director Melissa Sapienza worked with.”

Terpening is an honors graduate of Clare High School, with a Bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University in Music Education and a Master’s Degree from Holy Name College (now University). She was accepted as a Kodaly Fellowship student there in Oakland California. After a return to Michigan and teaching elementary at St Ignace School for 13 years, she came back to Clare in 2015, opening the Terpening Studio of Music where she now has 32 students, gives voice lessons and private lessons in Piano guitar, bass guitar, mountain dulcimer, percussion and ukulele to both adults and children.

Terpening said there are three age groups on the OAKE Choirs: the Children’s Choir for fourth and fifth graders; the Youth Choir for sixth through eighth graders and the Concert Choir for high school students.
Terpening said, “I have been working with Bella in private voice lessons at the Terpening Studio of Music since March of 2018. She has a beautiful soprano voice and an impressive range for her age. In August of this past year I asked her if she would be interested in auditioning for the OAKE National Youth Chorus, which is one of [the] three choirs that perform at the OAKE National Conference which was going to be here in the mid west this year in Columbus, Ohio.”

Terpening continued, “We started preparing her audition in August, and then had to send in a recorded audition. The audition was sent in to OAKE in October, and we received notice that she was accepted in November of last year. In December we received a packet of choral music that we then prepared each week during her lesson. Bella was expected to memorize all of her pieces.”

In Columbus, selected students rehearsed with nationally and internationally-recognized conductors Nyssa Brown, Julia Shaw, Andrea Solya, and Peter Erdei as part of these elite honor choirs, an experience which culminated in a concert at the Mershon Auditorium on the campus of the Ohio State University.

Bella’s father Ken Smylie said, “This year, the OAKE National Youth Choir was conducted by Julia Shaw, Assistant Professor of Music at Ohio State University, where she instructs in choral methods and voice pedagogy.  She has served as guest conductor for numerous national, festival, and honor choirs.  She holds a PhD in music education from Northwestern University and a Master of Music in choral conducting from Butler University.”
A release from OAKE said, “Selected through an intense audition process, these young singers performed pieces by G.F. Handel, Zoltán Kodály, and many other master composers. Additionally, the students sang the world premiere of a new choral work by American composer Douglas Beam. OAKE is a national leader in the field of music education and teacher training whose mission is “to support music education of the highest quality, promote universal music literacy and lifelong music making, and preserve the musical heritage of the people of the United States of America through education, artistic performance, advocacy and research.”
More information can be found at or by visiting the Organization of American Kodály Educators Facebook page.

Terpening continued, “Bella plans to audition for the Concert Chorus at next year’s conference in Portland, OR and I hope to also have a few other voice students from my studio to send in audition tapes as well.”
Bella will be singing the National Anthem on June 8th to open the “Relay For Life of the Eastside” event in St. Clair Shored.

Bella is also active in soccer, cross country, track and plays flute in the Clare Middle School Band.

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