Crystal Sellers battle
Sharing her musical influence with hundreds of students in Eastern Ohio
When faced with the daunting task of conducting a 500-voice high school choir earlier this year, Dr. Crystal Sellers Battle, department chair and associate professor of music at Bluffton University, had one phrase to keep her in charge of what could have been an overwhelming situation--“Just Dzüge It.”
“It’s intimidating because they are stacked literally from floor to rafters. I’m 5’4” and I get lost in this sea of singers, and it’s a wall of sound,” said Battle.
In February, Battle was the guest conductor for the Wayne County Festival of Choirs, which features high school choirs from the 10 school districts that are part of the Tri-County (Ashland, Wayne and Holmes) Educational Service Center. This was the second time in five years Battle had conducted the long-running event. In preparation for the festival, students became very familiar with the term dzüge.
“The actual musical term is tenuto, but that’s a boring word to me so I tell them to dzüge which means to give a musical swell to the note, to dzZZÜÜÜGGge it,” explained Battle while raising and lowering her arms in the air.
While intimidating, Battle says she absolutely loves the experience. “If you give good energy they give good energy back.”
During the Feb. 27 event in Smithville, each high school performed individual pieces. At the end, the entire group came together for the finale with Battle. Battle selected two gospel songs “Awake My Soul” by Victor Johnson and “I Got a Robe” by her mentor Raymond Wise. The second song also featured choreography.
The individual choirs began preparing for the festival in October, and Battle met with each choir director to help them prepare their students for dzüge -ment day.
“When I went to the rehearsal prior to the concert, I had one person from each school district hold up a dzüge sign. When we were supposed to dzüge a note they would hold up the sign. So I had dzüge cheerleaders,” laughed Battle.
As the guest conductor, Battle ran into several brothers, sisters and cousins of current students. Both times she has conducted, Battle has held a contest to have fun and further develop connections with the high school students.
In 2012, the schools were tasked with submitting proposals for how to spell dzüge. In 2017, the choirs submitted t-shirt designs featuring the word dzüge. Battle ended up choosing two winning shirt designs. The first from Orville High School includes the word dzüge with musical designs inside the lettering. The second design is of Yoder Recital Hall with dzüge displayed on the organ in Bluffton purple and was designed by Dalton High School students.