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Poco a Poco prepares for final show

The Poco a Poco Music Festival's final show is Saturday, June 15, and the public will get a chance to see students perform with other vocalists in the community.

The community choir and the students will take the stage at 3 p.m. to cap off a week of training and community building.

Woodland senior Maddie Redfern-Hofbauer has been attending Poco a Poco since its inception and she said while it has gotten bigger each year, the program's initial soul has never been stronger.

"They've brought in staff from all over," Redfern-Hofbauer said. "Streator is so small and coming here and seeing the difference in cultures is cool to see. Our area is very much about athletics and it's cool to see people treat music (as seriously)."

Redfern-Hofbauer said the tricks she's picked up from professionals has helped her save her voice and grow as a vocalist. Carlton Monroe, a choral conductor who traveled to Streator from Cincinnati just for Poco a Poco, is one such professional.

"I met Kate (Tombaugh, Poco a Poco president) working professionally years ago," Monroe said. "She reached out and now coming to Streator is something I look forward to as a retreat every year."

Monroe said the biggest change he's seen since he started is the quality of the young artists.

"They're getting more and more talented every single year," Monroe said. "We can challenge them and they always step up. This has really developed into a special group and we all have a special bond."

Streator High School freshman Nick Yanek said the bond is something that was apparent from the moment he started; this is his first year taking part in the camp.

"It's a totally different feel from what I'm used to; it's a different world," Yanek said. "No matter what level the instructors are on professionally, they treat us as equals, like we're on their level."

Redfern-Hofbauer said the instructors are very humble and helpful outside of just teaching music; they're fun and when the instruction isn't the main focus the atmosphere is relaxed.

"We're making a music family here," Redfern-Hofbauer said. "If I decide to go into music professionally, I know I can count on the instructors here to give me recommendations for the future."

Yanek said learning from such experienced professionals is like getting an old textbook from somebody who was into their research for more than just a class and it gives him a lot of background for thinking about the future.

As for Saturday's concert, Monroe said it'll be a fantastic intergenerational experience for the community and the surrounding area and having a new generation of vocal talents sing with a community choir is a unique idea.

"This is a special place and the support we get really makes it magical," Monroe said. "To have this happen in a place like Streator is a unique opportunity and it's something that cannot be missed."

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