If you ever find yourself wandering the school halls during third period, there is a good chance that as you are passing through the J wing you will hear the beautiful sounds of the San Marcos Madrigals Choir practicing. After a long year of obstacles constantly thrown their way, Mrs. Pantages has found new ways to bring music into her student’s lives, the Seniors have found new opportunities to step up into leadership positions, and the Freshmen have been presented with a first glance into highschool choir. With the Seniors facing a bittersweet end to their time in choir, Mrs. Pantages and some of the Madrigals Leadership took a moment to reflect on this year and their overall experience being a part of choir here at San Marcos.
“It feels surreal,” said Madrigals President, senior Julia Prykhitko. “This is the last time I’ll be with Madrigals and I feel like last year was kinda robbed from us. Regardless, we’re making the most of it right now.”
Almost every Senior in the San Marcos choir has been there since freshman year. This means that they have spent four years dedicated to improving their skills and knowledge of music. With the challenge of Zoom classes and limited rehearsals, the Seniors were given an opportunity to step into leadership roles for the choir.
“Freshman year I was coming into a choir that was kind of scary,” said Vice President and senior Kidus Efrem. “All the seniors seemed so big and scary. As a freshman you see how good they all are and you feel pressure to be really good. But I think now that I’m in that role I see Freshman who are also probably afraid. I can see how much I’ve changed and how I’m a lot more confident now. I think that’s helped me get to this leadership position that I have.”
With only a few more weeks left of school, the seniors have been working to set an example for the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen who will carry on the community that has been established within the choir.
“For the other grade levels I hope that they see the example and that they step up to fill those shoes,” said Mrs. Pantages. “I think that in the last month or so they have really seen what choir can be and what those leaders can truly accomplish. I hope that they are inspired to take on that responsibility and take it forward. I hope especially for the freshmen that they have found a place that they will want to come back to. Even though their first year in highschool has been crazy, I hope we’ve provided an environment where they feel welcome and part of the experience.”
“I really hope that they aren’t afraid to step up and be leaders” said Julia. “I also hope they continue the traditions we’ve established, even though we didn’t get to do many this year. I want them to be able to pass that down because it’s really unique to Mads and choir. It’s such a tight knit community and I feel like reaching out is really big.”
While restrictions have posed many difficulties for the choir, it has also brought a new chance for their music knowledge to expand. Especially for the new members who might have gone in with limited experience.
“We had to get creative on how we could continue to move forward in music and skills” said Mrs. Pantages. “We had an opportunity to explore some new topics that we normally wouldn’t really spend as much time on because it became a necessity. We had all this time now.”
“I think that the best thing this year has brought us is the opportunity to learn a bit more about music,” said Kidus. “Primarily during the year when we’re usually working on festival and concert stuff. But because we didn’t have any of that, we had time to dive more into music theory.”
Music theory is the base that every musician must cover if they have any hopes of improving their craft. So with this increase in lessons centered around theory, the choir members are able to feel more confident while learning and practicing set pieces on their own. This comes in handy since rehearsals are limited now. Before COVID-19, there was plenty of time for the singers to ask for help from their peers and have section time. But now, they must take on the responsibility to teach themselves at home so that they can come to rehearsal prepared.
“Just last week was the first time almost all of us were on campus together,” said Mrs. Pantages. “The students have had to take on a lot more responsibilities to practice at home. Our time together is more about detail work, fine tuning, and answering questions. However, I honestly feel like it has made them so much stronger and more confident because they’ve had to rely on their own skills. Now they’re coming into class feeling like they actually did the work. Everyone has been so much more focused. We get a lot done because everyone recognizes that it’s a special time and that it’s our opportunity to sing together so we really have to go for it.”
A strong work ethic has been apparent throughout the year. The group has been able to work together efficiently and rely on each other to take on their own responsibilities to make this possible.
“It’s like being on a team, you need all your teammates there to put together a product. You can’t play a baseball game with no pitcher, it doesn’t work,” said Mrs. Pantages.
With the help of the Seniors in leadership, Mrs. Pantages, and the group as a whole, Madrigals has put in enough work to be able to participate in two festivals this year.
“It’s interesting because I feel like any other year we wouldn’t necessarily be able to do multiple festivals because of the time limit. But now that it’s virtual we can just do one recording and send it off to a bunch of places,” said Mrs. Pantages “One of the festivals is called the WorldStrides Heritage Festival which we have done in the past. They’re offering a virtual option so we’re gonna record us singing live here and then submit a recording for the adjudicators to provide feedback and then we get ratings and ranking so that we still get a score and be compared against other schools. The second festival is called EPN Online Festivals and is very similar but through a different company. Same deal of getting feedback and getting scores to be placed against other schools.”
While sad to see the seniors go, this year has brought many possibilities that will prove to be helpful for them as they move forward. With college on the horizon, they face many mixed emotions as they leave behind an environment that they helped establish. Just like any team, Madrigals has been an instant family for anyone involved. They have found new connections and built friendships that they might not have explored if it was not for choir. Mrs. Pantages has helped build this choir into a welcoming community and I encourage anyone that may be interested to join. If you want to hear more from the SMHS Choir, check out their youtube channel and follow them on instagram at @choirsmhs.