A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Rowan and Fiona Barnes

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Rowan and Fiona Barnes

Being selected to participate in the American Choir Directors Association (ACDA)’s National Conference is a tremendous honor for any young musician. Less than 10 students are selected each year to participate from each state. For the Barnes family, the honor was doubled as both Rowan Barnes and Fiona Barnes were tapped to sing in the High School Mixed-Voice Choir and the Middle School Honor Choir, respectively.

For the Barneses, the prestigious position has been a long time coming. Rowan, a sophomore at Portage High School, and Fiona, an eighth grader at Willowcreek Middle School, have both been performing since they were fourth graders at Kyle Elementary School. Both began out of a love and interest for music. Fiona especially was excited about the prospect of performing with people of different backgrounds.

“I first began my journey with choral music and ensemble in my fourth grade class at Kyle Elementary School,” said Fiona. “I first tried singing in an ensemble because I wanted to improve my voice and sing with other kids in my grade and younger than me. I was already thinking about joining, so when I saw that people from all different backgrounds were coming together to sing, I was empowered.”

Once the Barneses began performing, there was no looking back. Choir became a method of self-expression and a means of developing friendships. 

“We perform concerts for the school body and the public as well, which allows me the opportunity to display the pieces of music our choir has practiced and perfected,” said Rowan. “This brings our group closer together as we all have something of which to be very proud. It also shows others outside of our group what we are capable of achieving.”

Given their dedication, it was no surprise to anyone except the Barneses themselves when, this February, they performed in ACDA’s National Conference. Rowan performed in the High School Mixed-Voice Choir as one of six Indiana high school students, and Fiona was one of three Indiana middle school students selected for the Middle School Honors Choir.

“When I heard about my acceptance into the choir, I was extremely excited. I had spent a very long time practicing, and it felt rewarding to have all of my hard work pay off,” said Rowan.

“My jaw had completely dropped to the floor and my eyes were huge,” added Fiona. “I had always thought that auditioning and getting into ACDA was a long shot, so when it became real, I didn't know how to act besides standing there speechless.”

Performing with ACDA was an incredible experience for both young musicians. The Barneses each said that their favorite part of the experience was the opportunity to meet new people. They were also left in awe at the size of the performance.

“I had never sang with a group that large, and being able to experience that was something extraordinary,” said Fiona. 

“It introduced me to a lot of teenagers my age, all of whom had a similar interest in choral music,” Rowan said. “It was a very exciting and fun opportunity which also challenged me to become a better musician.”

Both musicians want to thank their current and former choir and music teachers for helping them discover a passion for singing and performance, especially Director of Choirs at Portage High School Jordan Dollins and Middle School Choir Director Natalie Franks. 

“My music teachers have inspired me incredibly to keep pursuing music as a hobby, as well as a potential career,” said Rowan. “I would like to thank my choir teacher, Jordan Dollins, who has given me very helpful insight to help me perfect my voice, and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my other music teacher from middle school, Natalie Franks, for planting seeds of interest and curiosity in music and learning.”

Rowan also thanked his band instructors for helping him diversify his musical interests and providing him with more outlets for his passion, such as drumline. 

Outside of music, the Barneses like to take advantage of the safe environment in Portage to get out and enjoy being kids. This includes riding bikes, hanging out with friends, and occasionally stopping at the local Dairy Queen for ice cream on a warm day. Both musicians are grateful for the ways their performances have helped them feel more in tune with their community.

“Performing has definitely helped me connect with the world around me. Through choir and theatre, I have met new people that love music as much as I do. Without music, I wouldn’t have met half of the friends I have, and I wouldn't be able to express myself with my community,” said Fiona. “Without Portage, I might not have been able to do what I love so much.”