This is the first in a four-part series, Arts Fest in Focus, celebrating Tyler Junior College’s 8th annual Arts Festival.
Throughout the month of April, we will highlight a few of our talented students and faculty members in the disciplines of art, dance, music and theatre.
As a child, Aalia Webber had big dreams of being a singer.
“But as I grew older, I started to compare myself to the talents of other kids, and I didn’t think I could measure up,” she said. “So, I kind of gave up.”
Late in her high school career at Lindale High School, Webber decided to try again and joined the school choral program.
“Our director, Mr. [Kerry] Baham, came in my senior year and took our program by storm and said, ‘OK, we’re going to state.’ Just like that. And we were like, ‘I’m sorry, sir — what?!” she laughed. “But almost all of us made it to State Solo & Ensemble competition that year, and I was one of them.”
It was the confidence boost she needed to keep pushing.
“All of a sudden, it felt like this was something I could do, and I never knew I could do it before,” she said. “My childhood dream came back to life.”
When weighing college options, Webber thought about a four-year university but decided to start at TJC.
“It was close to home, and there was a big difference in tuition at a university vs. TJC,” she said.
Her experience at TJC has only reinforced that she made the right decision.
“At first, I expected it to be really scary,” she said, “because in high school, they’re always telling you, ‘They’re not going to let this or that slide in college; college is going to be so much harder, and your teachers aren’t going to help you.’ They really scare you for college.’”
She continued, “But I got here, and it wasn’t like that at all. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did. Since Day 1, everyone has been helpful and super-friendly. If I had to miss a test a due to family circumstances, they were very understanding.”
The same has applied to her experience within the TJC Music program.
“Dr. Eric Posada was the choir director when I first got here, and he told me I had potential and seemed to truly believe that I could make something of myself with my voice,” she said. “Our director now, Mr. [Robert] Boren, has also been a great influence, as has my voice teacher, Mrs. [Andrea] Trent. They have all really encouraged me, pushed me and made me better. This is a very safe environment. It’s like a little family.”
In addition to choir rehearsals and private voice lessons, part of Webber’s coursework as a music major requires classes such as music theory, ear training, sight-reading and piano.
“There’s some intense learning that goes on in those music classes,” she said. “Music theory, especially. It’s like learning another language. You think you’ve learned all of it, but then you go up to the next level and it’s a whole new set of challenges: Like, wow! There are French chords! But Mr. [Charles] Praytor is an amazing teacher. Music theory was terrifying, but he made it less so.”
After graduating from TJC in May, Webber plans to transfer to a university and pursue her bachelor’s degree.
“And then, we’ll see if I want to go on for a master’s degree,” she said. “It’s kind of a broad outlook right now, but more than likely, I want to be an opera singer. I’d love to solo. That’s the big goal. But if that doesn’t work out, I would definitely want to be in a really good choral ensemble that makes recordings, music for movies or something along those lines.”
Asked if she has any advice or words of wisdom to offer those who come after her, Webber answers without hesitation, “I feel like a lot of kids, and just people in general, tend to brush off choral singing — including me, before I got in choir in high school. Nowadays, everyone is focused on pop music or rap, and no one wants to touch the choral stuff because they don’t think they’ll like it as much.”
She continued, “But I think they don’t give it a chance a lot of times. I wish that more students would at least look into it before writing it off and see if it interests them, because you never know if you’re passing up something that will awaken something that you absolutely want to pursue.”
For more on TJC’s Arts Festival, go to TJC.edu/ArtsFest.