by Katie Christy
In the middle of the summer in 1974, right before the fourth of July, sixteen eager singers convened in the living room of rising music and chorale director Pat Bean to form the Rancho Bernardo Chorale. Since that day, the beloved Chorale has attracted more than 145 members and performs all genres of music, from patriotic to Broadway, comedy to contemporary, to sell out crowds.
The chorale’s longevity and large audiences have much to do with its founder, Pat Bean, who looks twenty years younger than she is, acts forty years younger, and leads her singers with a liveliness that’s infectious. Under Pat’s leadership, the Chorale garners extraordinary community support, raising money (a lot of money) for talented young musicians in the San Diego area. They do this largely with ticket sales, regularly selling out the Poway Performing Arts Center for audiences of 1,200+.
Currently, the RB Chorale is under president Leisl Sanchez. It boasts 125 members—some of whom are in their nineties. “We have a 93-year-old,” Pat says. “She’s getting kind of limited right now, but every time she dances, when she goes off the stage, she raises one of her legs as if to say bye to everybody and the audience goes wild.”
Over the years, the Chorale has traveled the world, even winning a choral award in Italy. But mostly, the Chorale performs hometown shows to appreciative crowds. Its weekend performances are the first to sell out, and its Christmas shows are consistently popular. The Chorale is perhaps best known for its annual scholarship event for graduating high school seniors.
The event is hosted at Studio West, with a panel of judges, and staff provided by studio owner Peter Dyson. “Peter and his staff have been outstanding. It’s a wonderful experience for the young people that come and audition for the scholarships. I just can’t say enough about Peter,” says Pat. “He’s been very generous with Studio West.”
Six finalists are chosen from the auditions, with three performing each night of the two-day show run. The winner is decided by the audience’s vote, but no matter the outcome, each of the six students wins a monetary prize. The first year of the fundraiser, only $500 total was available as prize money. This year, the Chorale raised $15,000 for its scholarships.
Because the RB Chorale is a non-profit organization, the fees paid for its performances and events go directly to its scholarship fundraiser for graduating seniors. The competition is only open to students attending high school in San Diego County. “My favorite part about it is awarding those scholarships on stage,” Pat says. “Watching these kids go out and perform and do their best for the audience, I can see that some of them really knock it out of the park.”
Pat and her Family
Besides connecting with the younger community, Pat is truly passionate about the Chorale, even 44 years after its founding. “I love the people. The Chorale is like a family. They take care of each other,” explains Pat. “The fun thing is to work through a semester and bring them on stage and see them really rally to the cause with smiles on their faces.”
According to Pat, the Chorale and its music has kept her young and energetic. “It’s been proven that music can keep you young, and I think that’s what it’s done for me,” Pat said. “If I can make people feel happy through the music, that inspires me and keeps me going.”
Open enrollment the Chorale is held twice a year, in September and January. She encourages anyone who even remotely enjoys singing to step out of their shell and come to a rehearsal.
The Secret to World Peace
“If people sang more, we’d have less angst in the world. If I could get the whole world singing, that would make me happy, because I think a lot of our hate and disagreements would disappear,” Pat says. “It’s hard to argue when you’re singing a common note.”
Performance this Weekend
The RB Chorale’s next performance is this weekend, June 9th and 10th. For more information on auditions, performances, and updates on the scholarship event, visit the RB Chorale website at www.rbchorale.org .