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First Mills Choir in over two decades

The first choir students in 22 years participate in rehearsal at the Mills College Chapel on Wednesday, Sept 26 to prepare for their performance of “Fires of Wisdom” at Convocation on Sept 28. The nearly 40 singers will be performing their Winter Concert in December. The choir was started by senior Rebecca Johnson this semester and is conducted by Cindy Beitmen. All photos by Lauren-Marie Sliter.

As the sun set in the Chapel last Wednesday, nearly forty Mills voices soared to its rafters — something that has not occurred here in over two decades.

The Mills Choir, established this year by senior Rebecca Johnson, is a student club involving undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff of all musical abilities, ages and genders. After only a couple rehearsals, they performed the Mills Hymn, “Fires of Wisdom,” at Convocation on Sept 28.

Nearly 40 singers gathered in the Chapel on Sept 26 to rehearse music for the new Mills Choir. The choir includes undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff members. This is the first year in over two decades that Mills College has had an official campus choral program.

“I felt like Mills needed to have (a choir),” Johnson said. “All of the top women’s colleges have a choir, we’re the only one that doesn’t.”

Mount Holyoke College, Bryn Mawr and Barnard College all have choirs open to their students, but Mills has not had an official college choir since at least the 1980’s.

“Even 22 years ago (the Mills choir) wasn’t really an on-going thing,” said Cindy Beitmen, the Mills Choir conductor and Director of the Ensemble course at Mills for the last fifteen years.

The goal is to make this Mills Choir last and become an integral part of both the Mills and
Oakland communities.

“Our hope is to move into the Oakland community,” Johnson said. “We want to bring Mills out there, or the community in here.”

But in order to pursue this goal, the choir needs funding.

Currently, the Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC) is supporting the choir, giving it $2,800 for this school year in order to pay Beitmen for her time and for other expenses such as the choir’s T-shirts and music. After this year, however, ASMC does not plan on funding the choir any longer. And that is more than the Music Department could afford.

“Funding is almost impossible for new classes here,”
Beitmen said.

Despite the choir’s relatively small budget, the member response has been enormous.

“There has been such a great response only in the first semester,” Beitmen said. “It’s only going
to grow.”

In order to maintain the choir after ASMC ceases to fund it, Kelsey Whiteside, the choir’s fundraising chair and a Mills music major, is planning events and contacting alumnae on behalf of the choir.

“I’m excited to be a part of it,” Whiteside said. “There are a lot of music people here, and having something big they can join at all skill levels is important.”

Beitmen keeps the choir rehearsal fun while maintaining a palpable level of excellence among the singers. Throughout the two hours of rehearsal time, there was not only beautiful music, but significant laughter and encouraging praise from Beitmen.

“You can really change a person simply by singing,” Beitmen said to the choir after a particularly amazing run through of one of
their pieces.

President Alecia DeCoudreaux listened in to one of the choir’s first rehearsals this semester, according to Whiteside.

“She realizes the importance of it,” Beitmen said. “This is the beginning of a new era.”

Winter Concert:
Sunday, Dec 9, 4 p.m.
Littlefield Concert Hall

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