After school on Fridays, STA is a mess. Students quickly stream out of the doorways of every building armed with colossal backpacks and swinging netties. Relentless lines of cars clog the parking lot as they haltingly maneuver around girls hurrying to their rides. Huddled groups of students crowd the quad as they chat and make plans with their friends. After a tedious day at school, most girls are thinking about socializing or going home to relax except for the people with extracurricular activities.
Among the people who stayed after school were the choir students who traveled to Chicago for the WorldStrides Heritage Festival April 14. The Heritage Festival is a competition against other choirs from across America, which allowed STA to see their choir’s national ranking. To prepare for this performance, the choir students voted on which days they could practice after school and participated every day possible after spring break… even on Fridays.
The choir practices were composed of long periods of focused singing punctuated by short, hilarious conversations, laughter or helpful feedback from choir teacher Michelle McIntire or piano accompanist Steven Karlin. Girls turned and dramatically sang to each other, made up silly interpretive dance moves, or both. Although these rehearsals took place after school, the girls were attentive, fun and excited.
“Before after school rehearsals, we usually wandered around, ate and took off our skirts,” freshman Annie Huber said.
Huber enjoyed the Friday rehearsals because everyone there was fun.
“[Friday rehearsals] were hilarious,” Huber said. “Sometimes we just started acting out the songs while we sang them and joked around, but we still kept focused.”
Some students didn’t enjoy the Friday practices. Freshman Katie Grasse was excited about the Chicago trip, but she preferred to spend time with her friends than rehearse.
“You couldn’t hang out with your friends until after rehearsal,” Grasse said. When asked about planning events with friends, she replied, “You just kinda planned around [the rehearsals] because if you knew you had practice you couldn’t skip it.”
“I take a lot of care when choosing songs,” McIntire said. “I usually have a statement to make. This statement was, ‘There is a lot of stuff going on in the world and I can be accountable for [it].’”
“Ergen Deda” is a Bulgarian folk song about a lonely old man who can only get a young girl to dance with him. “Beneath the African Sky” is about a young girl who experienced the Rwandan genocide after a decent life, bringing awareness to awful things happening worldwide. “Now I Become Myself” attempts to capture the process of growing up through discovering who you are.
The choir had to be certain they understood each song before their performance to convey the proper emotions when they sang. Much like a classroom, the girls sat neatly on the risers and analyzed the lyrics as a group; but when they sang, their hands restlessly fluttered and their feet tapped and twisted.
The choir’s dedication earned them a gold plaque and got them invited to the National Invitational Festival of Gold and next year’s National Youth Choir Festival at Carnegie Hall. Only high scoring choirs are invited to either event.
“The girls wanted [to score well] and worked hard for it to happen,” McIntire said. “We’ve been very blessed with the music department here and I hope it will continue.”