2018 J. Elwood Roberts/MARS HILL UNIVERSITY Choral Festival

FEBRUARY 2 & 3, 2018


FINALe Concert is saturday, February 3RD at 4:00 PM in Moore Auditorium


Click here for 2018 MHU Choral Festival Audition Requirements/Information

Click here for 2018 MHU Choral Festival Student Registration Form

Click here for Choral Festival Audition Assignment

The 69th Annual J. Elwood Roberts/Mars Hill University Choral Festival, held on the campus of Mars Hill University February 3-4, 2017, was a huge success with Craig Jessop, Dean of the College of Arts at Utah State, and former conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as our guest conductor.  The 350 high school students presented an outstanding closing concert and left with a greater appreciation for choral music.

Plans are well underway for the 70th Festival to be held on February 2-3, 2018 with Brad Holmes serving as our guest clinician.

Dr. Brad Holmes is the Director of Choir Programs at Millikin University in Decatur, IL.  Prior his appointment at Millikin, Dr. Holmes was Associate Director of Choirs at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.  Choirs under his direction have sung in every state but Alaska and in thirty-five countries.  He was a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University for two academic terms, working primarily with the Choir of Clare College.  He returns to England frequently for conducting engagements and choral workshops.  Other international guest-conducting opportunities have taken him to Continental Europe, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  Domestically, Dr. Holmes has conducted over two-hundred-fifty choir festivals including twenty-four All-State choirs, regional ACDA honor choirs, district festivals and church music clinics throughout the United States. Dr. Holmes’ compositions are published by First Step Publishing, Santa Barbara Music Press, and Morning Star Publishers.  Additional arrangements may be found at Bradholmesmusic.com.

Under Dr. Holmes’ direction, the Millikin University Choir has gained national recognition due in part to six invitations to perform at national and regional conferences of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA).  The choir’s annual US tours have been punctuated by international tours to China and Taiwan, Ireland, Scotland, England, Russia, Norway, Haiti, The Dominican Republic and most recently to the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.


History of the Festival


The J. Elwood Roberts/Mars Hill University Choral Festivalwas established in 1949 by the late J. Elwood Roberts as an effort to improve choral music in the high schools of western North Carolina. While in the beginning the “clinic” was comprised of about fifteen schools in the closely surrounding area, this annual event has grown into one of the premiere choral festivals in North Carolina and, as far as is known, is the longest, continuously-running festival of its type in the southeast and is unique for a private college in the United States. Each year more than 700 students from approximately 100 high schools audition for the Festival Choir.

In the early years students were selected by their directors to sing in the choral “clinic”. Quite often, a double quartet from each high school would participate. As the event continued to grow, reaching a size of 400 non-auditioned singers, it was decided that a better format would be to reduce the size to approximately 325 voices and have the singers audition at selected high school sites. This practice was put into effect for the clinic of 1970. Auditions are held at various sites in October. After being selected, the singers prepare the music and attend one of seven zone rehearsals held in January. With the help of high school zone coordinators this practice has proven very effective.

Guest conductors have included some of the most prominent choral musicians in the United States.

J. Elwood Roberts came to Mars Hill College in 1944. He served the music department in several capacities, most notably as an instructor in music theory. He also directed the choir at Mars Hill Baptist Church. Mr. Roberts died in 1966 at the age of 52.