On May 8th through May 15th, the Alice Lloyd College Voices of Appalachia traveled on their annual spring choir tour. With the support of ALC alumni and friends of the College, the choir was able to travel to Chicago, Illinois. The following is VoA president Grace Driskill’s thoughts on her first tour as president. Grace is an upcoming senior English major from Breathitt County, Kentucky.
Alice Lloyd College’s Voices of Appalachia (VoA) travel each year to a different region of the United States to share Appalachian style music and the mission of ALC. This year, we traveled north to the Chicago area. This was my third year with the choir and my third tour; it was my first choir tour as President of the Voices of Appalachia.
All three of my older siblings attended ALC and participated in the Voices of Appalachia; my oldest sister and one of my brothers also served as President during their time with the VoA. We have each had very different experiences as President— my sister was one of the first under our former director and my brother was the last. The Presidency was something I had anticipated, as I was one of three students that had been in the VoA for three years, and as the only member of that trio that had directly worked in the Music Office and the VoA. However, when I was elected President I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had no experience with the presidential duties of planning a tour. Mrs. Wendy Saylor, our new director, was a wonderful leader and allowed me both the freedom to pursue my own hopes for the VoA and also provided instruction, guidance, and feedback. We both had experience with tours and choirs but faced quite a learning curve preparing for our first tour with the newest version of the Voices of Appalachia.
I am filled with pride over how far the choir has come in the past year and the way that tour came together. The new choir members have improved greatly since our first practice back in August, and I was glad to have them all there on tour with me. Though things never go exactly as planned, it is clear that God had his hand on us for the entirety of our trip. Everything that happened, or didn’t happen, was what was needed.
Our first concert was in Georgetown, Kentucky, at Georgetown Baptist Church. The concert was a wonderful way to start and really set the tone for the rest of the tour. Our hosts were amazingly kind, hospitable, and a fun audience. They stood for My Old Kentucky Home and even sang along with many of our gospel tunes. We were blessed right from the start.
From there, we traveled up to Chicago and spent three days in the city. We were privileged to perform at Artist Senior Living, a memory care and assisted living facility; at Pacific Garden Mission (PGM), an enormous homeless shelter; and at First Congregational Church of Chicago on Sunday morning. One of my favorite of these venues was definitely PGM. They welcomed us in and gave us a delicious meal alongside the homeless that receive services from the mission. They then integrated us into their nightly church service. Seeing the crowd smile at us as we sang, radiant with joy despite their difficult circumstances, was a blessing that made all the work of tour worthwhile.
From Chicago, we traveled down to Dayton, Ohio, for our final concert. We performed at the phenomenal and breathtaking venue of St. George Episcopal Church. It was our largest church audience, and many of the individuals that came to see us were directly connected to Alice Lloyd College. They showered us with compliments after our performance and many of the attendees were kind enough to host us for our last night on tour.
One of the many things that I was able to do on tour as the VoA President was to speak at each concert. I was able to share about my family and how I have been blessed by my time in the VoA and at ALC. My three older siblings and I have all attended ALC; all of my siblings have now graduated, and two graduated debt-free. All four of us volunteered with the Voices of Appalachia and worked in the ALC Music Office.
I come from a mission family and was raised to have a deep love and respect for service. The work-study program at ALC has fostered that love by providing me with many opportunities to grow in leadership, especially service-based leadership. My work with the choir has helped me to develop not only as a singer, but as a leader, communicator, and event organizer. I have learned an enormous amount from my experience with the VoA and look forward to spending my final year of college in this wonderful group. I am blessed that I went on this year’s choir tour and shared these experiences with all of our new members — and that I could tell the world of the school on Caney Creek, shining a light unto the mountains.