Cult Like Choir Program Offers Challenge, Comaraderie

Cat Kolm, Staff Writer

Being a part of the Choir program is a prestigious honor.  A majority of incoming freshmen, already fed a steady diet of Chamber’s Acapella Showcase assemblies throughout their middle school career, choose to give up their 6th or 2nd period to take Women’s or Men’s Chorale Ensemble each year, expecting choir to be 50 minutes each day of pop arrangements and contemporary songs.

“My impression before I came to Campo was that it was really laid back and fun, and everyone was super talented from the start.” said freshman Brooke Finegold.

However, upon entering the Choir classroom on that first day of school, choir teacher Mark Roberts reminds the new, starry-eyed members that singing in a Choir is not all about arranging acapella pieces to Justin Bieber’s latest hits.  “It’s more about making beautiful music together,” said Roberts.  “And that usually means singing more traditional music.”

After the initial shock fades, many freshman make the tragic decision to drop the class.  “There were probably about 4 girls who dropped in the first quarter because they realized we actually had to learn and do a little bit of work,” said Finegold.

It was disheartening for her to watch as Choir got smaller and smaller as the year went on.  “I was annoyed when they dropped because I love choir and I love to sing, so I don’t know why they left,” she added. For Finegold the work is worth it. “I learned a ton about music and it’s deepened my passion for singing.”

Freshman year also allows the students who remain in the program to bond, providing them with a new group of friends.  “Since I came from Stanley, almost all of my new friends are from choir,” Finegold said.

Freshman year quickly transforms into sophomore year, which means a step up from Women’s Chorale to Women’s Ensemble for the girls.  “It was definitely nicer to not be in the bottom choir anymore.” said sophomore Marisa Wood.

The boys are awarded with an even bigger step up to Concert Choir. Usually, sophomore boys remain with the freshmen in the Men’s Chorale Ensemble; however, due to a lack of sophomores and a surplus of freshmen boys, Roberts decided it was best to give the Men’s Chorale Ensemble to the freshmen and to place the sophomore boys in Concert Choir.

Sophomore year starts at a very fast pace.  “I used to warn the freshmen that those continuing would hit the ground running in their next year,” said previous choral director Stacey Kikkawa.  This manifests itself in the Fall Choral Classic, a friendly competition which takes place in October.  This is an abrupt change from freshman year, where the first concert takes place in December.

After the Fall Choral Classic, sophomore choir life settles into a steady rhythm of practicing for the Winter Concert and working on improving the choir’s sound.

With one year of Campo choir already under their belts, the sophomores often experience a feeling of seniority over the new freshmen, especially during combined performances.  “When I was a sophomore last year, I would see all the freshmen during the concerts and remember what it was like when I was a freshman,” said junior Amanda Ratcliff.  “I already felt some seniority over the freshmen, but choir performances reinforced that.”

But, like all good things, sophomore year slips away and is replaced by junior year.  For most people, this means SAT, ACT, college visits, and a mountain-load of AP and honors classes; but choir kids also have the significant jump to Concert Choir on their junior year checklist.  Even the junior boys, who already have one year under their belts, are hit with raised expectations since they are older and more seasoned to the fast-pace life in Concert Choir.

This year Concert Choir added a competition in New York City to its list of performances.  While it was a great opportunity, this involved  extra rehearsals, attention to technique, and stress.  Concert Choir managed to pull through and wow the audience members at Carnegie Hall, adding an amazing experience to a long list of memories that choir members will cherish.

Other than the obvious perks, the ability to sing co-ed once again is definitely an upside to being in Concert Choir.  Singing with guys again adds a lower earthiness that even the lowest alto had trouble producing back in sophomore and freshman choir, which effectively round out the choir as a whole.

Finally, feeling a mixture of joy and regret, the choir members bid a fond farewell to junior year, and senior year appears before them.  For most, this means another tumultuous year in Concert Choir, but for 32 choir students, this means an invitation into the most elite choirs in the Lamorinda area: Chamber Choir.  “I wasn’t really expecting to get into Chamber,” said senior Lindsay Mackinson.  “The morning I found out was so surreal.  I was so excited!”

This top choir holds auditions a few weeks before the end of the previous year, and the few students selected have the entire summer to both fantasize and fret. “That summer I was really excited to be a part of this amazing group, infamous for its ‘family-like’ feel.” said Mackinson.

Before actually being in the classroom that first day, many Chamber students-to-be formulate impressions about the group.  “Before I got in, I thought Chamber was this super elite group that all the fantastic singers got into.  I also thought that Chamber was the best choir in the area and the people in it had to be flawless at sight-reading and singing.”

On the first day of school, however, the Chamber members fully realize the power of the small group.  “After I got in, I was surprised how normal people were,” said Mackinson.  “Everyone made mistakes during songs and had the same struggles while learning the songs.”  Students also feel the camaraderie that is produced through spending 50 minutes each day, hectic moments before competitions, and last minute lunch time rehearsals together.  “I think Chamber has this weird power of making people friends with people they never would have met otherwise,” said Mackinson.  “We’re all so passionate about the music and sometimes moments onstage and discussions in class make people really vulnerable.”

As a three-year choir member and a next-year Chamber inductee, I’ve learned over the years that choir is something most people don’t truly understand.  In choir you find a special group of people that are all geared towards the single goal of making beautiful music.