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Director inspires choir




Johnny Matlock wants his choirs engaged in their performance.

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Johnny Matlock wants his choirs engaged in their performance.

Engagement starts in rehearsal and with Matlock.

Matlock, director of vocal music at Hays High School, is a clinician at this week's High Plains Music Camp at Fort Hays State University.

He's directing the High Plains Music Camp Singers, a choir for grades nine through 12. The choir had a long rehearsal Sunday night and now rehearses for just less than an hour every morning.

The concert is at 1 p.m. Saturday in Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

"For me, I love working with kids," Matlock said. "They're excited about (music) or they wouldn't be here."

Though it's his first year as a clinician, it's not his first experience at the camp.

His daughter attended, and he recommends the camp to his students, such as Raeanna Peacock, a 2014 Hays High graduate.

Peacock likes Matlock's teaching style because "he talks about what he learns from others. He's my mentor in music and life."

In fact, Peacock said she's adopted something she's heard from Matlock, "improve the world one note at a time," as her motto.

Matlock's enthusiasm is evident as he's in constant motion.

"There's nothing worse in a choir than a face of indifference," he said. "We are not going to have faces of indifference."

The greatest challenge directing students from different schools "is getting everybody to work in ensemble as a team," Matlock said.

As the students rehearse, it's "neat to see them develop relationships."

Matlock uses props like an expandable Hoberman sphere to help students visualize concepts like a crescendo.

"I like to find things like that," he said of the sphere.

Matlock is in constant motion as he teaches and encourages his students to move.

"Singing is athletic," he told the students. "Put your body in position to do something athletic."

As a Hays High senior, Quin Brungardt, in his third year at the music camp, knows Matlock's teaching style.

"He's very energetic and gets the students involved as a teacher. He shows, he doesn't just tell."

Mike Yust works at the music camp as a counselor.

"I take five days off from my work," said Yust, who works in the technology field. "I love counseling the kids. It's just fun."

When the call went out for male singers, he joined the choir.

"I love his teaching style," he said of Matlock. "I think it's effective. Kids want to be here."