The stage lights shine in your eyes, rays striking and illuminating the glitter on your blouse. Your pianist plays the first note of each voice. Your director winks. It occurs to you that a year’s worth of grueling classes, long rehearsals, and exhilarating concerts culminates with the next five to ten minutes. You silently pray that the altos don’t make the pesky timing mistake they’ve been struggling with for the past few rehearsals. There’s a nagging voice in the back of your head telling you not to screw up.
Your pianist finishes the opening measures and your director cues you in. As the song continues, the familiarity washes away any lingering doubts, and you simply sing.
I signed up to audition for my high school’s choral ensemble before freshman year, but when I arrived at school, I changed my mind. I chickened out. I worried that I wouldn’t get selected, so I went to my guidance counselor and had the choir period taken off my schedule. For the rest of the year, I ignored the pangs of regret that hit me whenever I passed by the music room during a rehearsal or went to a concert. Eventually, I realized that it didn’t matter if I didn’t get accepted, as long as I tried. At the end of freshman year, I auditioned with “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz—in hindsight, a terrible choice—and I got in!
But how hard could it be? It’s just singing, right?
Wrong. Choir is a commitment that entails a lot of work and should not be taken lightly. At my school, we clock in more than an hour of class time a week, in which we review breathing technique, and posture. Every other week after school we have an hour-and-a-half long rehearsal. Two Saturdays a month we have a three-hour rehearsal in which we learn new songs for upcoming concerts and rehearse songs for competition. As competition draws near, rehearsals also become more frequent. You also have to practice your part on your own. However, despite (or maybe because of) the hard work, choir has been a memorable experience and significant component of my high school career.
Here are some of the reasons why choir should be part of your life too!
1. The term time management gets thrown at you left and right throughout high school, but nothing will teach you how to manage your time wisely quite like having a Sunday rehearsal when you have a term paper and exams in three AP classes on a Monday, or having to rehearse your student council election speech and make last minute posters the day before you leave for competition. A lot of freshmen tell me that they don’t get involved in clubs and other extracurriculars because they’re worried about the workload. However, according to College Board, participating in an extracurricular activity displays “time-management skills” and the “ability to prioritize.” It’s important not to take on more than they can handle, but the best way to make use of your time is to get involved.
2. If you’re a shy student who might want to overcome your timidity in front of a crowd, joining choir is the way to go. Performing is what we do. My director allows us to experiment with songs of our choice and perform our work in front of the class. We also prepare the music for our school mass. Often, we break into small groups, whip out a guitar, and perform contemporary worship music in front of the student body. We also produce a dinner theatre and multiple holiday concerts throughout the year. Choir is the type of activity that really helps students push their comfort zone and break out of their shell.
3. Competition! Not only is your hard work coming to fruition, you are spending anywhere from two to five days with the singers who have become your family in the past year. Together, you’re staying up in your hotel room (not the night before competition) eating as many snacks as possible, watching Pitch Perfect during the long bus rides, and exploring unfamiliar cities!
My director likes to take us to competitions orchestrated by Festivals of Music, which also organizes tours and activities for us in the city we’re competing in. As a member of my choir I’ve had the chance to travel to San Francisco and Montreal, visit Alcatraz, take a ghost tour through Old Montreal, and attend mass at the Notre Dame Basilica. On the actual day of competition, everyone’s nerves are running high, but at that point you can only do your best and learn from what the judges have to say about your performance.
4. My strongest friendships are with other choral students. According to a study published by Chorus America in 2009, “a chorus can provide a predictable and reliable social anchor in good times and in bad.” We spend our weekends incurring your director’s wrath and our free periods perfecting harmonies. Because of thin hotel walls, we’ve also heard everyone’s shower singing. In many ways, the friendship is a byproduct of spending so much time together. But we’re all united by a common thread: our love of singing and music. When we go to workshops, we get the opportunity to meet music professionals and students from other choirs all over the US. The uniting thread thread runs globally, as evidenced by #choirproblems.
Here are a few:
- Realizing you’ve been singing the wrong part for the last five rehearsals.
- The song your director has chosen for the final review isn’t in an actual language.
- Being a Soprano I and irritating everyone else with your high notes.
- Bursting into song in the middle of the hallway when everyone else just wants to get to class.
- I can’t sing the Star Spangled Banner normal.
So, think you’d like to contribute to #choirproblems some day? Audition for your school choir!