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Making an impact musically

CSB senior Olivia Irwin helps organize benefit concert with Women’s Choir

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April 2, 2015

By Anna Pohlad '15

The CSB Women's Choir rehearses for the April 11 concert.

Olivia Irwin '15

Olivia Irwin, a senior nursing major and president of the College of Saint Benedict Women's Choir, has experienced the impact music can make on others.

She's hoping the same thing can happen April 11.

Irwin and Susan Cogdill, assistant professor of music education at CSB and SJU and director of the Women's Choir, have been among the many people working diligently to host five collegiate women's choirs from Minnesota in a concert titled, "Still I Rise."

The concert, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Escher Auditorium, Benedicta Arts Center, CSB, will benefit Anna Marie's Alliance in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Free-will donations will be collected at the concert.

Anna Marie's Alliance provides women and their children who are experiencing domestic abuse with a safe environment in order to eliminate and escape this. This spring, Anna Marie's Alliance staff members spoke to the choirs from CSB, the College of St. Scholastica, St. Cloud State University, University of Northwestern St. Paul and the University of St. Thomas about their services, and the students heard stories from women who have used the resources.

"It will be a privilege to sing these songs together in April, and to raise money for our local shelter. We are hoping that this event will continue in Minnesota," Cogdill said.

The choirs will be performing songs of trouble, hope and empowerment, and will highlight the link between the arts, education and social judgement.

One of the songs, titled "Still I Rise," is one of Irwin's favorites.

"It's a great song about rising above hardships and moving on," Irwin said.

Last year, Irwin traveled to Duluth, Minnesota, with the CSB Women's Choir to participate in a powerful collaborative concert at St. Scholastica. Bret Amundson, a 2005 SJU graduate, is the director of the St. Scholastica women's choir. This concert raised money to support the Safe Haven Women's Shelter in Duluth.

"Participating in the concert last year was a really amazing experience. The audience and choirs felt an unexplainable power of what we were doing and a great impact was made," Irwin said.

Irwin, originally from Omaha, Nebraska, has been participating in choir since middle school and throughout her time at CSB.

"I really love music. I love the way people connect to it and it's very universal. I like the way I feel when I'm singing and how a choir is a community of people who have similar interests," said Irwin, who is an alto in the choir.  

This year, Irwin was elected president of the choir. She helps organize the choir council, writes agenda meetings, plan socials as well as a variety of other duties.

In preparation for the concert, Irwin and the choir have been rehearsing music. On the day of the concert, all five choirs will get together for a final rehearsal and the performance. Staff members from Anna Marie's Alliance will be speaking during the concert and answering questions at a booth.

The concert will be the perfect end to Irwin's CSB women's choir career. After graduation, Irwin hopes to continue singing in a choir.

"Singing is a part of my identity and I love to do it," Irwin said.