Music students in Canal Winchester schools stand to benefit from a Sunday concert by the Gender Road Christian Church choir.

Music students in Canal Winchester schools stand to benefit from a Sunday concert by the Gender Road Christian Church choir.

The choir and the church's praise band, His Embrace, will perform at the World Convention of Christian, Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ denominations in Nashville July 30-Aug. 3. In support, donations will be accepted at a pre-tour concert at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 27, at the church, 5336 Gender Road. Half will go to the church and half to the Canal Winchester Local Schools music department.

In addition, there will be a 5 p.m. potluck dinner and a dessert bake-off contest after the concert.

"Our church is all about this outreach," church music director Charlotte Bougher said. "All we need is a cause."

She said when she heard about the school district's recent financial troubles, she had an idea.

"If the community itself sees that this church, who has no connection (to the schools) wants to help, we could generate a lot of interest from the community," she said.

Bougher said donations collected Sunday could be used to pay entrance fees for Canal Winchester Middle School students to participate in a vocal music contest held each year in April.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm at this grade level," Superintendent Kim Miller-Smith said. "We felt like this fit the spirit of the church's charity. It's a great partnership."

For the past four years, middle school music teacher Cyndi Murphy said she has tried to prepare about 80 students in grades six, seven and eight to participate in the solo and ensemble contest organized by the Ohio Music Education Association.

Solo contestants pay a fee of $11 to enter and ensemble contestants pay $14. Murphy said the fees come to about $500 each year.

"The numbers are so huge right now," Murphy said. "I'm hoping we can get more support from churches."

She said many students want to go, but for some, covering the entrance fee is a problem. Parents sometimes see the contest as "a fluff" and aren't willing to pay for the entrance fee, Murphy said.

She has paid some of the fees from her own pocket.

"We've always made it work," she said.

She said students in middle school find the contest to be a great challenge, but it gives them an opportunity to learn about themselves.

"It's self-discovery," she said. "The realization that 'I'm capable of something I though I could never do.' It's a revelation because it's a new experience."

Students usually begin training for the contest in January.

"I really work hard to convince kids to get emotionally and mentally prepared to step foot in that room," Murphy said.

As part of the contest, students go into a room with three to four judges and perform, which can be quite daunting for 12- to 14-year-olds, Murphy said.

"They're like a bird tossed out of the nest," she added.

Murphy is also the music director for Faith United Methodist Church in Canal Winchester. She said she would like to take Bougher's idea and make it work for Faith UMC.

"She set something in motion," Murphy said.

Bougher said she just wants to keep choir members at Gender Road Christian Church "grounded."

"We'll be giving back to the community; that is our cause: the community and the schools. God is making the way for us to do this," Bougher said.

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com