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PHOTOS: Casper Children’s Chorale director Zavodny carries on Patton’s lessons and energy

Casper Children’s Chorale artistic director Erin Zavodny works with the singers during a rehearsal for the upcoming holiday performance in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper Children’s Chorale’s annual Christmas concert Sunday will be the first for Erin Zavodny as executive director of the 43-year-running, multi-generational music institution in Casper.

There’s definitely “some nerves,” Zavodny told Oil City News this week, and she added that that’s to be expected for any concert. However, she’s confident in the hard work the chorale has already put in during rehearsals.

“And there’s this magic that always happens when you walk on stage,” she said. “You just try to remember to account for that: that the kids always pull off such a wonderful performance. “

Zavodny is taking over for founder Marcia Patton, whom she studied under at Kelly Walsh High School. Zavodny has also been supporting the Chorale in day-to-day activities, including playing piano, for the last 13 years. When the opportunity to apply for the directorship arose, Zavodny said, “it just felt like the right thing to do.”

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

She took over this fall after spending the summer working with Patton to ensure a smooth transition and to learn the administrative side of running a nonprofit. She does have her own “hopes and dreams” for places she could take the enterprise, but for now she’s content to “jump in with both feet” to make sure that the Chorale continues to thrive as Patton built it.

“She taught me kindness and just what hard work can get you,” Zavodny said of Patton. 

Like Patton, she’s hoping to teach the kids to carry the composure and manner of their musical performance to all aspects of their lives.

“[Patton taught that] ‘professionalism’ isn’t an age, it’s the way you carry yourself and the way you represent yourself,” Zavodny said “It’s not just the music, it’s how you walk onto the risers, how you walk off the risers, how you behave between the songs.” 

“Marcia just did such an excellent job of making sure every single piece of the puzzle was in place, so that’s something that I definitely carry with me.”

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Like past concerts, the Christmas concert this year includes pieces from traditions from cultures around the world. 

Zavodny said Patton always gave the kids an “opportunity to talk about what the music means to them, because that’s how they build a personal connection to the music and that makes their performance so much more meaningful.”

”[And] when we talk about the songs … the words that they share are so wise and so thoughtful,” Zavodny said.

Zavodny said she’s seen firsthand the positive impact Chorale has on the children’s development and ability to navigate through life. For them, Chorale is a creative outlet, a community, and a “home away from home.”

“The emotion that kids can express through their singing and through their expression in making music together is something that you can’t explain, and it leaves such a lasting impact on kids. It gives them a place. Everyone wants a place where you can belong, and that’s what Children’s Chorale gives the kids.”