In the key of community
EAST TROY — Singing is all the rage on reality TV shows. Programs such as “The Voice,” “America's Got Talent” and the iconic, recently retired “American Idol,” give the illusion that anyone can sing well given that one big break. But closer to home, talent abounds, and some of those who are dedicated but less decorated sing for the love of it in the East Troy Community Choir.
In its 10th year, the mix of male and female voices is directed by Rodger Trader.
Trader founded the choir for a sole purpose — to keep classical pieces alive.
“The music tends to be sacred and comes from many periods, styles and ... the choir enjoys music that speaks to them on an emotional level,” Trader said.
Trader's career is as varied as the music he conducts. He taught choir at East Troy High School for 14 years, which included the middle school. He was an educator for 24 years overall, with a 17-year hiatus to run a woodworking business with his father. All the while, Trader was involved with music on some level — either singing or directing. He spent a considerable amount of time as assistant director with the Waukesha Choral Union.
His motivation for starting the East Troy choir was simple, “to give adults something to do locally, and to show kids choral music is a lifelong endeavor,” Trader said.
Like a change in tempo, Trader admitted there is a gap in ages within the adult choir.
“I have one person in every adult age range, except 20s and 40-year-olds,” he said.
The void in the age bracket is attributed to those enrolled in college to busy adults with children and multiple activities of their own. The youngest member of the choir is 32, while the next oldest is 57.
Choir member Judy Atkinson of East Troy said no matter the age, choir members stick together.
“We have formed bonds and relationships because of music, and we give support to each other and help one another do the best we can,” Atkinson said.
Choir members come primarily from East Troy and neighboring Mukwonago. The choir usually performs about three concerts a year and most recently presented its “Masterworks” anniversary concert. A May 1 combined adult and children's choir concert is next on the calendar.
Despite their success and dedication, Trader said membership in the volunteer choir is just under 20 members.
“If you're in charge of music, you're constantly in conflict with other dates, other choirs' performances, illness and age,” he said.
Even though working with adults and high school age was rewarding, Trader wasn't through challenging himself. Three years ago, he started a community children's choir and he said they move to a different beat.
“There's definitely a learning curve to working with little kids,” Trader said. “They're great musically, but in this day and age there are social skills which are late in developing.”
Beth Nicoson of East Troy said no matter the age, Trader pulls it all together.
“Rodger just has a way with the music and picks interesting, meaningful pieces and we sing classical, significant music,” Nicoson said.
Trader turns 64 this year and looks forward to the coming years with the choir, and continuing the tradition of their special music.
“It tends to be sacred and comes from many time periods, although they enjoy music that speaks to them on an emotional level.”