Dr. Michelle Herring Folta, Artistic Director
Dr. Michelle Herring Folta is the assistant professor of choral/general music education at Columbus State University and the artistic director for the Voices of the Valley Children’s Chorus. Dr. Folta earned her Ph.D. in Music Education at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Previous degrees include a bachelor’s degree in Music Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in Music Education from the University of North Texas.
Prior to graduate work, Dr. Folta taught middle school choir for eight years in Austin, Texas, where she was recognized as “Teacher of the Year.” While teaching in the public schools, Dr. Folta was instrumental in transforming her campus into a Fine Arts Academy, preventing the school from possible closure. Her choirs received consistent superior ratings in festivals and contests during her tenure as well as many opportunities to perform with community choruses and religious organizations.
The Voices of the Valley Children’s Chorus has achieved excellence under Dr. Folta's direction. Voices of the Valley has been selected to perform with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, for the West Georgia Choral Society’ Choral Festival in LaGrange, Georgia, the Columbus Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker, and the Columbus State University Wind Ensemble. The choir performed their first international choir tour in Norwich, England in July, 2018 and were selected to perform at the Georgia Music Educators Association Conference in January, 2019.
Dr. Folta continues to be an active member in the choral music community as a clinician and performer having performed in choral organizations such as Conspriare (Austin, Texas) and the Dallas Symphony Chorus (Dallas, Texas). She currently performs with the St. Thomas Episcopal Choir, under the direction of Rick McKnight.
Dr. Folta has served as the guest clinician for the Region 18 Tenor/Bass Choir in Austin, Texas, the West Georgia Choral Festival, the GMEA Statewide Sixth Grade Honor Chorus, and the GMEA Muscogee County Middle School Chorus, as well as local middle schools and high schools in the Chattahoochee Valley. In addition, she has served as an adjudicator for state-wide festivals and contests and as a guest lecturer at Iowa State University, the University of North Texas, and Georgia State University.
Dr. Folta has presented research in a variety of state, national, and international venues, including Texas Music Educators Association conference, the Florida Music Educators Association conference, the Georgia Music Educators Association conference, the National Association for Music Education conference, the Society for Music Teacher Education conference, the Race, Ethnicity, and Place conference, and the Narrative Inquiry in Music Education conference. Additionally, she has published research articles in state, national, and international music journals. She recently published a book chapter titled "You Have Got To Them," in Feather Boas, Black Hoodies, and John Deere Hats (Sense Publishing).
Dr. Folta and her husband, Zach, reside in Columbus, Georgia with their daughter Lena and their dog, Tex.
Sam Brown, Accompanist
Sam Brown has played the piano since age five. He took violin lessons and participated in a youth orchestra during his early school years but realized in high school that his true love was piano. In 2015 he graduated with a Bachelor of Music in piano performance from Bob Jones University, where he won the annual commencement contest in 2012 and served as a student accompanist. During his time at BJU Sam sang in the graded choral program and developed a love for choirs. In his last year as a piano accompanist he performed with Eliezer Yanson and the University Singers on Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall. His teachers include Maureen Penix, Peter Davis, Norman Krieger, and Alexander Kobrin. Sam is currently in his second year of a master's degree at Columbus State University's Schwob School of Music where he serves as the accompanist for Choral Union, under the direction of Constantina Tsolainou, and Voices of the Valley, under the direction of Dr. Michelle Herring-Folta.
In late February 2017, Sam collaborated with the Choral Union in John's Creek, Georgia on a concert featuring works by Ola Gjeilo, and in early March he gave a lecture recital on The Seasons Op. 37b by P.I. Tchaikovsky. In addition to his studies and collaborative work, Sam teaches private piano lessons at the Schwob Music Preparatory Division where he teaches over 25 students of all ages and ability levels. Sam and his wife Sarah live in Columbus, Georgia.
Olivia McWaters, Student Assistant
Olivia McWaters is a sophomore at Columbus State University studying Music Education. Olivia grew up in LaGrange, Georgia and graduated with honors from LaGrange High School in 2015 and has been a student assistant for Voices of the Valley since she came to Columbus. "Voices of the Valley has become such an important part of my life. Not only does it serve as training for my field, it is so much fun to work with such a great staff and great students!"