ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE : Baritone Carver Cossey Teaches That There Are No Spiritual Low Notes

<i> Chris Pasles covers music and dance for The Times Orange County Edition. </i>

Baritone Carver Cossey is a singer who believes that it’s time to turn things around. “We’ve gone through the annihilation period,” Cossey said, referring to what he calls lyrics that are “down on everything” in some pop music. “We have no way to go but up now.”

Cossey wants to teach a positive attitude to younger musicians in a vocal and instrumental music workshop he is leading today and Friday, as part of the West Coast Performing Arts Invitational (formerly the Laguna Beach Dance Invitational). The workshop concludes with a free program on Friday at 8 p.m. at the West Coast Performing Arts Center in Mission Viejo.

Cossey, 39, says he came by his attitude naturally. “My father was a minister, so the church has always been my foundation,” he said. “I get my greatest satisfaction when something is spiritually oriented. And I’ve always been youth-oriented, especially around the church.”


He grew up in Indiana but came to California two days after graduating from high school. “My parents asked what I wanted as a graduation present, and I said, ‘A one-way ticket to California.’ ”

His parents wanted him to study medicine at Stanford University, but Cossey found himself pulled toward music when he transferred to a community college in Palo Alto. He was drawn to the Southland, where he has lived for the past 14 years, after seeing the Cal State Fullerton singers.

“The Cal State University Singers used to come up and do concerts,” he said. “I was so taken by their repertory and musicianship, that’s what brought me down here.”

Since then he has sung with the Pacific Chorale, the Master Chorale of Orange County and the Irvine Camerata. For the past six years, he also has been a member of the Los Angeles-based Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers. “They focus on doing spirituals in their original setting,” he said. “That’s what pulled me to the group.”

In his Mission Viejo classes, Cossey will focus on what he calls “vocal maintaining”--that is, giving the students “some type of foundation upon which to build.” Then he and his singers will share a program of “everything from early baroque music to some musical theater.”

Teaching is nothing new for him. He divides his time, he said, into about “70% performing, including conducting, and 30% teaching.” He leads a young adults choir at Anaheim United Methodist Church, and also goes where conducting opportunities arise.

As he has worked with young people, he said, he has seen the gospel tradition evolve.

“Gospel changes with the times,” he said. “There’s rap in gospel music now. It’s a very effective tool.”

Does he object to the change? “I don’t reject anything that has to do with saving a soul.”

What: Concert by Carver Cossey and vocal and instrumental music students.

When: Friday, Aug. 16, at 8 p.m.

Where: West Coast Performing Arts Center, 23581 Madero, Suite 201, Mission Viejo.

Whereabouts: San Diego Freeway to Alicia Parkway exit, go east to Madero. Turn left.

Wherewithal: Admission is free.

Where to call: (714) 494-8505.