Sara Miller, music teacher at the Sisters Elementary School, and 30 sets of parents of forth- and fifth-graders are going the extra mile. Every Wednesday morning for 2-1/2 months, teacher, students and parents roll out of their nice, snug beds before dawn, gobble down breakfast and then the students meet at 7:30 a.m. in the music room of the Sisters Middle School.

The students start out their day with Miller guiding them through musical numbers they will perform with other area fourth- and fifth-graders on March 16 at the Kids Choir Festival at Bend High School. One song in particular should bring on lots of giggles:

"One, two, three, four five! Monkeys jump and jive

"Five little monkeys jumpin' on the bed, Monkeys are in the house!

"One fell off and bumped his head, Monkeys are in the house!

"Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,

"No more monkeys jumpin' on the bed!'"

After an hour of rehearsing other numbers, like "The Jungle Book," "Dance with the Elephants," "The Crocodile" and "Animalia" - in which the children sing the "Turtle Tango" - they head off for their regular classes at the elementary school by school bus.

The Sisters Kids Choir was formed with a generous gift from Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) as a result of the Studio to School grant from The Oregon Community Foundation with additional support from Brad Tisdel, creative director for SFF. This has led to the Sisters Kids Choir being invited to sing as a part of the "My Own Two Hands" weekend of fundraising for SFF.

They will also be joining the Sisters High Desert Chorale, under the direction of Connie Gunterman, for their spring concert at the end of May.

"The Sisters Kids Choir is an excellent example of arts and music curriculum alignment taking action in our schools. I think it also bridges the gap between fourth and fifth grades by giving kids at the elementary school and middle school the chance to participate in music together," said Kelley Moen of SFF.

Sara Miller, whose specialty is choral work, said, "The energy in the room is infectious; these are students who want to sing, and want to get better. We are having a ton of fun together, and they are brilliant at picking up difficult phrasing in our pieces at a quick pace. Wednesdays are my new favorite day of the week."

Prior to joining Sisters School District, Miller spent four years teaching pre-kindergarten through eighth grade at a private international baccalaureate school in Bend. She has conducted choirs, and she brings a zest for singing to our own singers here in Sisters.

The Kid's Choir Festival has been drawing fourth- and fifth-grade singers from around Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties for years to spend a day at Bend Senior High School, working under the direction of a guest conductor specializing in children's choral


The festival was started by area music teachers who longed to have their students experience a high level of choral singing, in addition to their general music classes at school.

Each school that participates has a designated time for rehearsals; all schools learn the same music while under the direction of their school's music teacher, then gather for a day of rehearsals, this year under the direction of Kim Skondin, the artistic director for Oregon Repertory Singers in Portland.

Along with Skondin, past guest conductors for Kids Choir Festival included Shirley Van Paepeghem from Meridian, Idaho, who was Miller's mentor and vocal coach throughout her middle and high school years. Both guest conductors are also past directors with the Youth Choir of Central Oregon, based in Bend for the last 29 years.

Each year sees around 200 students attend, and this year Sisters Country will have their own representation.