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Shellard composition

Elmhurst College presents arrangement

Music professors eagerly waited for the final song of the Elmhurst College muscians. Serene sounds slipped through the air, as the student musicians gracefully played the folk arrangement, “Stay Gentle” by Brandi Carlile. The musicians sing the final line: “gentle, unbreakable you”, flooding the audience with awe, Choral Director Robert Shellard said.

Sarah Catt, Elmhurst University Director of Choral Activities, chose Shellard to arrange a song for her choral group’s performance. They performed at the Illinois Music Education Conference, a chance for music educators to attend competitions and enrichment sessions, while also having student voice to entertain them, Shellard explained. The conference ran from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.

“Hearing the final product of the song that I have been altering for months was such a rewarding moment for me,” Shellard said.

Shellard’s love for music stems beyond the actual music itself, but instead, from the musician community. Watching his own high school choir teacher craft pieces, which Shellard and his fellow students performed inspired him to compose, he said.

Now, as a teacher, there is complete creative freedom in which he can arrange a piece of music and then have a group of students simply try it out, Shellard said.

Catt chose the “Stay Gentle” because of her personal connection to the song, Shellard said. During quarantine, Catt sang the piece with her daughter, Shellard explained. Moreover, Catt selected the song to be the heartfelt, fresh finale of an otherwise complex set, Shellard added.

“Sarah Catt said ‘This piece needed to be a breath of fresh air, the calmness at the end of the set,’” Shellard said. “[‘Stay Gentle’] is meant for the audience to just appreciate the emotional aspect.”

In order to create the arrangement for “Stay Gentle,” Shellard and Catt worked together on the song, making sure that it lived up to her vision, Shellard said. At it’s core, the song was about the students, as was the overall performance, he said.

When the arrangement was finally ready to be performed, Shellard viewed it along with his fellow colleagues including Orchestra Director Aaron Kaplan.

“[The arrangement] was beautifully done and well crafted, “ Kaplan said, “I was not surprised because Shellard is fantastic. It was a lovely rendition of the [“Stay Gentle”]”.

Shellard may have crafted the piece, but he believes the credit goes to the talented Elmhurst musicians who spent months diligently perfecting each part of it. They transformed the piece into something beautiful, leaving the audience amazed, Shellard enthused.

“It is not about me, it is about all the students, it is about the people that have worked so hard to perform this piece,” Shellard emphasized.

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