Summit High School choir performs free show Thursday night
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Last year, 13 seniors graduated from Summit High School’s choir after traveling to Australia and singing at the Sidney Opera House. So this year, teacher Cathie Hill has focused on rebuilding.
“It has been a fun year, and the students have really stepped up to fill the gaps,” Hill said.
Last fall, the Summit Singers and Peak Performers (all girls) competed at the Metro State Choral Festival, which was a new event for them, and the Concert Choir (the nonauditioned group) performed at the District 8 Vocal Clinic in Rifle, a choir comprised of about 400 voices. Both events provided an excellent performance and critique experience for the singers, Hill said. And most recently, the groups competed at the UNC Jazz Festival, where the Summit Singers received a superior rating and the Peak Performers, an excellent.
“We all work together really well, and Ms. Hill directs us well,” said sophomore Lauren Gossman, who is learning new techniques, including breathing, since transferring to Summit High this year. She loves the trips, such as the UNC Jazz Festival, because the choirs are able to spend the day together, as well as receive outside feedback.
One of the challenges the groups face is that they “do it all,” Hill said, whereas larger school programs have dedicated vocal jazz ensembles that specialize in contemporary a capella music and sing that style year-round. In Hill’s program, students sing a wide variety of genres and styles, from classical to folk, pop, show tunes and vocal jazz.
“Each of these styles requires a different type of pronunciation and tone,” Hill said. “They do get pretty well rounded after singing for four years.”
Sophomore Jenna Monroe has learned to sight read and how to get her voice into a higher range.
“I love to sing,” Monroe said. “It’s a way to relax myself.”
About 60 students make up all three choral groups. Many of the students also perform in the school’s musicals.
This year’s concert features small group ensembles, ranging from four to eight students, who chose their songs and directed themselves.
“While the skill and performance level is sometimes not as high as a teacher-directed song might be, I feel that it is important to allow and encourage students to develop the musical decision-making that this requires,” Hill said. “And some of them are quite good!”
“I think some of the groups are definitely going to bring some stuff to the table this year, and I think it’s going to be really, really good,” said senior Daniel Hagy, who has been in choir since sophomore year.
Gossman said one of the highlights is the choir’s arrangement of “Don’t Stop Believing,” originally made popular by Journey.
“It’s so much fun, and it’s so nice to sing well-known stuff because the audience gets into it,” Gossman said.
One of Hill’s favorite segments of the concert is the senior performance because she gives them the opportunity to direct a selection or perform pieces as solos or duets.
“It is always pretty emotional for all of us, as we say good-bye to these outstanding singers,” Hill said. “The growth that happens over the four years in choir is so amazing.”
This year, seniors Austin Miller, Ian Quandt and Hagy stand out in Hill’s mind in terms of growth. She said Miller struggled with matching pitch in the beginning, as a sophomore, but has “worked really hard to develop as a musician, and this year was selected to All-State Choir, a huge honor.” Quandt came in with a solid background in piano but has grown into a “strong leader in the tenor section,” she said. And Hagy started choir with a strong drama background “and has been an anchor in both the plays and musicals for the past several years,” she said. “He is moving on to major in musical theater next fall, and I am so proud of him.”
“Each of these three students plans to pursue music in a different way,” she said, “and each has been important to our success as a choir.”
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