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On High School Choirs and Growth

It's been awhile since I've updated you on my life, faithful blog readers! Rest assured, I have not been swept away in this sudden influx of awesome spring weather. But truthfully, I've been pretty busy, especially with midterms coming up. Between the formal addition of pledges for Delta Tau Delta, major scholarship interviews, and far more reading about Shakespearean history than I could have predicted, I've had little time to stretch my blogging muscles.

But one of those things that's keeping me busy is also something super musical, and thus super awesome, and I can't resist telling you about it.

Anyone who has been keeping up with my posts on this blog knows that I am involved in literally every single choir on this campus, including our huge Chorale, our audition-only Chamber Singers, our hip Vocal Jazz Ensemble, and our a capella sextet Major 6th. This is a lot of rehearsal time to factor into my schedule, obviously, and since I'm neither a music major nor minor, I get questions all the time about why I've still decided to sing in choir after all this time. Sometimes, I happen to be the person asking those questions myself, considering that I'm literally the only student in the choral program who sings in all four of our major groups. Normally, I would answer this question with a metaphor of some kind (since thinking in metaphors is what Creative Writing students do best), but today I have a direct comparison up my sleeve for all you logical types.

You see, after the Chamber Singers' wildly successful and unforgettable trip to New York City last year, we figured that our tour for this year would be something a little bit closer to home. As tasty as our bite of the Big Apple was, it was also quite the expensive bite for the program. So this year, Chamber Singers decided to take their show on the local road. Over the past couple of weeks, we've been reaching out to local area high school choir programs and doing musical exchanges. Our group catches a bus from C of I's campus to a local high school like Caldwell or Borah, we join their choir during their usual class time, and we sing for one another. It's a very casual atmosphere, even though our choir comes dressed in formal attire--Dr. Wells, our director, keeps things pretty light by joking around with the high school students while offering them vocal clinics and advice on the pieces they've prepared. Then Chamber Singers will sing through their short set of pieces and give the high schoolers a taste of the College's excellent music program.

We've still got a handful of high schools left to visit before our tour is officially done, but so far it's been a total blast. Every high school that we've been to has been stoked to have us as visitors, and we've been stoked to hear how great these high schoolers sound. Having gone to high school in the area myself, I already knew about a lot of these individual programs, but I had never had the opportunity to get so up close and personal with each high school until now.

For example, I had always known Eagle High School to have one of the best programs in the state, but until a couple of weeks ago I had no frame of reference for how good they really were. Now that I've been singing in college choirs for almost three years, I've grown accustomed to how well-oiled college groups sound compared to most high school groups. But Eagle sounded absolutely phenonenal when we visited them, singing a repertoire that even college students would find challenging and singing it very, very well. And every choir has had its own personality, too--the women's choir from Skyview High that we visited (the one in this picture) was a bit shy, but determined to sound as best as they could for guests; Centennial High was about as animated as a Disney cartoon, and seemed to be having a blast on the stage they sang on; Borah High School, all business until their program was complete, turned warm as we began to perform for them.

Basically, I've learned a lesson through this touring that hadn't fully registered before: there's no single formula to a great choir. High school, college, men's, women's, mixed, shy, social, serious, goofy, whatever--any choir can make great music as long as they put their heads together and work at it. All of these groups may be at different experience levels, but they all have had that same drive for excellence, that hope to deliver a song's message perfectly. It's that attitude that makes a choir good just as much as blended harmony and attention to dynamics do.

Which has brought me to another lesson: becoming good at something takes a ton of practice. We actually met Borah during a time when most high schools were finished for the day, and their regular choir director wasn't even present, but still they were practicing and they still sounded fantastic. That sort of thing doesn't happen by accident. It takes a ton of time and energy to make something that good.

That's why I keep doing choir, even as it eats away all my free time. Singing is something I've always done for fun, but it's also something that I want to keep improving upon. What better way is there to become a better musician than surrounding yourself with other musicians, all of whom have the same goals as you? Singing in a choir is a major growing experience, both for developing a talent but also for developing a bond. I've encounted nothing that has brought people closer together than uniting their 50 voices into one for a singular, musical purpose. That sort of thing is beautiul to me. That's why I keep committing an hour and a half of every school day to this. That's why I continue singing in choir.

Going on physical trips is nice, but nothing compares to a trip through a challenging, moving piece of choral music.

-Clayton Gefre

Clayton is a junior creative writing major from Meridian, Idaho.