On the in-Klein to recovery

VMD prepares for competition season during absence of director Michael Klein


Lauralai Gilbert

Vocal Music Department (VMD) Consultant Reina Bolles leads Music Machine in learning new choreography for their competition set. Bolles stepped up to help direct the VMD as a volunteer.

“And love and peace unite…”

The walls of the Bolles theater were filled with the soft voice of Vocal Music Department (VMD) consultant Reina Bolles. Dressed in sweatpants and dancing shoes, Music Machine eagerly watched and listened to Reina Bolles as she directed the group explaining her vision of the set. 

The current VMD director, Michael Klein, took an emergency leave of absence in early February. Reina Bolles and her husband and consultant Ron Bolles have voluntarily stepped in to help direct VMD. They heard about the need for volunteer directors on Feb. 22 and spent their first day as consultants on Feb. 23. Although there have been varying substitute teachers assigned to the class, Reina Bolles and Ron Bolles lead the rehearsals, as Klein would do. 

“It was disappointing because we do really like having Mr. Klein as a director. More than anything, we were just curious and confused to see where we were going from [after Klein’s leave of absence] because we haven’t really been told much,” junior and Dance Captain of Sound Unlimited Jessica Engen said. 

The VMD’s two competition choirs Music Machine and Sound Unlimited’s first in-person competition since the beginning of COVID-19 is on Mar. 19. Although most of their competition sets and songs have already been determined prior to the start of winter break, Klein’s absence came at an unfortunate time for the program.

“There were less substitutes than ever and the [VMD] were just looking for someone who had the skill set, albeit very old now,” Ron Bolles joked. “It was a matter of ‘who do we [VMD] know’ so the leadership here [at BVH] decided to give us a call.” 

Ron Bolles directed show choirs for over 50 years, spending 25 of those at BVH and eventually leaving the campus in 1999. In 2000, the VMD’s theater was named after Ron Bolles to commemorate his work at BVH. The personal connection Ron Bolles felt to BVH is a large part of why he took up the consultant position. 

“This whole program has meant a lot to us all along. It’s just an opportunity for us to give back. We’re not being paid anything for [helping direct the VMD] so we just came to help out,” Bolles explained.

Since Klein’s leave, the VMD community has been working together to ensure that their competition groups are prepared for competition. Parents and other community members in the Vocal Music Foundation (VMF) board are largely involved in the groups’ operations, making the absence of Klein less stressful.

“Part of our VMD is having a very active school connected organization. Many of the parents that are involved in the [VMF] keep in touch with the Bolles family. Some of our parents themselves were products of  VMD and have maintained connections with the Bolles family for decades,” Principal Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D. said.

In addition to helping direct the VMD, Ron Bolles had to incorporate a new song, “Tear Them Down”, to Music Machine’s setlist after one of Klein’s selections did not come in. Ron Bolles chose that song for the setlist because he was inspired by recent events and has observed the effect music has had on the world.

“Just look at life the last couple of years. We’ve been isolated and we’ve been quarantined [because of] COVID and now war and social injustices, so the set begins with that piece [“Tear Them Down”],” Ron Bolles said. “It’s kind of like what we have found in our own lives in terms of the power of music that can change people’s lives.”

I think [during] the time that we’ve been here there has just been a resurgence of hope”

— Consultant Ron Bolles

“I think [during] the time that we’ve been here there has just been a resurgence of hope,” Ron Bolles expressed. “They had so much inconsistency with [Klein] being here and not being here and the veterans who have been here before, know how far behind they were in terms of preparations.”

Going into VMD’s competition season, Engen, Ron Bolles and Del Rosario are hopeful. Del Rosario has faith that the VMD will bounce back from these difficult times and overcome the challenges brought by COVID-19. 

“We have a remarkable group of resilient young individuals. I’m confident that we’re pulling together and that they’re gonna be ready,” Del Rosario said. “COVID has been difficult for a lot of people. I think in this case, it’s only making them stronger.”

Regardless of the outcome of the coming competition season, Ron Bolles is optimistic. Show choir competitions are extremely competitive, yet Ron Bolles and his wife express that they did not volunteer to get the gold, but to foster the transformative power show choir can have on students. 

“It’s not the wooden plastic trophies that matter to us,” Ron Bolles said. “It’s the blood, flesh and living trophies. How the [students] changed, that’s what matters.”