The All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir was founded in 1963 by Glenville D. Thomas, a native of Wales, and a long-time vocal music director at Zanesville High School. He organized the group to allows Ohio's high school singers to share a musical experience similar to that enjoyed by members of the All-Ohio State Fair Band since that group's inception in 1925.
For 29 years, until his death in December 1991, Mr. Thomas led the Youth Choir in concerts for thousands of visitors at the Ohio State Fair, directed them in a number of European tours, and took them to several national parades. Championed by four-term governor James A. Rhodes, the choir has sung for gubernatorial inaugurations and was named Ohio's "Singing Ambassadors of Goodwill."
From 1992 to 2013, the All-Ohio Youth Choir was led by Charles R. Snyder of Coshocton who continued many of the choir's traditions. He and his staff emphasized vocal health -- vitally important for the Fair's outdoor performances and unpredictable weather-related conditions -- and commissioned new works which the Youth Choir has premiered. In 1995, the All-Ohio Youth Choir was incorporated with the help of choir friend, attorney Michael P. McCullougg. 1995 also saw the birth of the Cardinal Chorale, a group of 40 voices, selected by audition to provide additional musical opportunities for returning choir veterans and to offer more musical joy to fairgoers.
In 2014, Jon C. Peterson, an assistant music professor at Malone University (Stark County), was named as the director for the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir.
The 200 members of the choir are selected each spring on the basis of their ability and experience, the recommendation of their high school choral director, and the consent and support of their parent or guardian. Five days before the opening of the Ohio State Fair, the new choir meets at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus and launches into a rigorous schedule that includes vocal training, sectional and full rehearsals, solo auditions, and marching instruction. Once the fair opens, the Youth Choir sings six to eight concerts a day and marches up to ten miles a day to various performance sites around the 360 acre fairgrounds.
The All-Ohio Youth Choir has been described by members as "an experience in living," "Introduction to College 101," "a secular retreat," and "the musical forte of the year." Parents have applauded the Youth Choir experience as "the finest opportunity for personal growth and development," and "a life-changing three weeks." Music educators have complimented the Youth Choir for "good, healthy singing," for encouraging "wonderful musical spirits," and for urging the singers to "take that energy back home to their own schools."
The Cardinal Chorale was organized by Mr. Snyder in the summer of 1995 to provide additional musical opportunities for returning veterans of the All-Ohio Youth Choir. The 40 members are selected from taped auditions. In addition to daily performances at the Ohio State Fair, the Chorale has sung for the Ohio Fair Managers Conference in Columbus in January 1996, Columbus, the July 1996 rededication celebration of the Statehouse, for the Ohio Vocational Education Conference in August of 1996, and for the Ohio Music Education Association Professional Conference in Toledo in January 1997.
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