The Voice of Wakefield High School

The Howler

The Voice of Wakefield High School

The Howler

The Voice of Wakefield High School

The Howler

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Choir class crescendos back into Wakefield

The Wakefield Choir class has their first performance out in one of the stairways, one of many to come. Paul Orsett can be seen in the front directing the music for all the students to have an example. Photo Courtesy of Icarus McGrath.

After not offering choir for several years due to not enough students signing up for it during class registration, Wakefield High School has stepped off the brakes for the 2023-2024 school year and brought back its choir class for interested students. Those enrolled have dove straight into learning new pieces as a collective group with a common goal of helping one another improve along the way. Paul Orsett is the drama and choir instructor who will be retiring at the end of the school year. Before he leaves, he conveyed he would be happy to teach one or two choir classes if enough students were to sign up. 

“We ended up getting enough students to do one [vocal music class], so we have 30 students in [first period],” Orsett said. “There are three different levels in the course: beginning, intermediate and proficient, all in the same class. We are all working together and learning how to read rhythms, notes and how to sight-sing; we have a lot of fun.” 

The choir class has their concert in May in front of a live audience, so they are learning and preparing various music materials to showcase their talents and teamwork. Icarus McGrath is a senior enrolled in the class who elaborates on the specific kinds of pieces they will be performing. 

There are three different levels in the course: beginning, intermediate and proficient, all in the same class. We are all working together and learning how to read rhythms, notes and how to sight-sing; we have a lot of fun.

— Orsett

“We are performing basically everything we have learned so far in class, including our Bruno Mars medley, some choir class basics such as ‘Do Re Mi,’ a song called ‘The Rhythm of Life’ from the musical ‘Sweet Charity,’ and we are going to be learning so much more,” McGrath said. 

Coming into this class, Orsett had a goal to get the choir class as visible as possible, so he has taken every opportunity to do so throughout the school. 

“After learning a few songs within the first couple of weeks, we went out to the commons area and sang to the cafeteria people,” Orsett said. “Then we went into the stairwell and a whole class came down to watch, which was really cool. We also recently recorded the Star Spangled Banner for the announcements. Hopefully, we will be more [prevalent] in the next nine weeks so people can start seeing us more.” 

During each practice, the class has an opportunity to hear themselves sing through recordings, allowing them to learn their strengths and weaknesses so they can work towards improvement. This class is all about teamwork, so students of various levels are more than happy to help each other grow. 

“They are all very supportive of each other,” Orsett said. “If I ask somebody to go up to the front, nobody ever refuses; they might be hesitant, but then the class goes ‘you can do it’ and they eventually go up and do what they need to do, it’s really neat.” 

Being in choir not only teaches students the skills of singing, reading and analyzing music, but it also helps them in other aspects of their lives. 

“I like learning how to read sheet music because it’s something I’ve wanted to know for a really long time and it helps me a lot since I am also in theater,” senior Gus Kurogi said. 

In previous years, the choir class was known for singing during graduation. The class plans on bringing this back, getting together with the advanced theater class to perform a number from “Anne of Green Gables,” a show about graduating and moving on with life all while learning things along the way. With this combination, there will be about 65 singers performing at graduation.  

“[Along with graduation] we might be singing at the senior night and other assemblies and things like that; I just want to get them seen.” Orsett said. 

Assessments in choir are also different from other classes; there are no papers, pencils or computers involved. 

Tests look very different than usual,” freshman Averi Prothero said. “Tests in chorus are just your ability to read the music rhythms you’ve learned in class.” 

With the choir class being a big success this year, the hope is to continue it for the 2024-2025 school year. There is no application process to sign up for choir; an interested student is to simply sign up during course registration for the first level. If the new choir teacher next year feels that the student needs to be moved to a different level, they will be moved as long as they stay within the same class period. Students are encouraged to sign up as with a higher number of people interested, there is hope to get at least a half-time teacher, if not a full-time one, to help students learn different music pieces. 

“I would 100 percent recommend people join the class,” McGrath said. “I think learning not only how to sing but also being around those who love creating and making something with their voice and doing something with the arts is super important to just being a person in general. I think everybody needs that art and creativity in life.” 

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