Hoof Prints: Welcome to the family

Belle Chanter rehearse with their new student teacher. They are learning a new piece that she is directing. The singers welcome her into the choir family. (Pony Express staff photo by Anna Kaul

Belle Chanter rehearse with their new student teacher. They are learning a new piece that she is directing. The singers welcome her into the choir family. (Pony Express staff photo by Anna Kaul

BY ANNA KAUL – PONY EXPRESS

Editor’s note: This piece is provided by Hoof Prints, a partnership between the Stillwater Gazette and The Pony Express, Stillwater Area High School’s student newspaper. For more pieces like it, check out each Wednesday edition of the
Gazette.

Senior Maggie Zeidel spends most of her day in the music hallway, and she would not have it any other way. She sings as a soprano in the auditioned women’s choir, Belle Chanter, plays trombone in three different ensembles as well as euphonium for the Concert Wind Symphony.

Zeidel is not alone. Many students take part in music programs, with some being in all three top-tier music ensembles. Starting in fifth grade, moving all the way into high school, music becomes the reason many of these students look forward to coming to school. Stillwater inspires its musicians because of the profound sense of community. They bond with their directors, their classmates and, of course, their instruments, creating an experience they look forward to taking with them to college.

The music hallway proudly displays photos of performances, a nod to the moments when teamwork and skill come together to form the perfect tune. (Pony Express staff photo by Anna Kaul)

The music hallway proudly displays photos of performances, a nod to the moments when teamwork and skill come together to form the perfect tune. (Pony Express staff photo by Anna Kaul)

It can be intimidating for newcomers to enter into prestigious ensembles like the Stillwater Choir. Senior Lily Johnson joined the choir as a sophomore and has worked her way up to section leader. The tradition of mentor groups welcomed her into what she calls a “family.”

“We have a tradition of mentor groups which are randomly selected members of the choir,” Johnson said. “Everyone is in a group, and you’re required to share a meal together. It really opens up the communication, especially when you don’t get to see members from each section.”

A soothing sense of comfort and openness is fostered by a simple bowl of spaghetti.

“It is easy to establish community over a meal because you can easily converse and share common interests,” Johnson explained.

The idea of groups getting to know each member has been carried down to Belle Chanter, where members participate in small group gatherings.

A strong sense of community is not unique to choir; orchestra and band ensembles also consider the music hallway a home away from home.

“The Con Amici party is something Mr. Jones has done for years,” said senior Olivia Feehan-Nelson, member of Con Amici and Concert Orchestra. “It’s usually within the first few weeks of school, so everyone still seems like strangers.”

After that experience, there is an environment of friendliness among the musicians.

“The reason why the orchestra succeeds is because we’re all so close,” Feehan-Nelson said. “It’s a dynamic people don’t understand until they’re part of it.”

Angela Mitchell, choral music teacher, leads an annual retreat in October for Belle Chanter singers to meet their new family for the year. The band enjoys a lock-in, team bonding that involves turning the school into a playground.

“The band lock-in was really fun,” senior Maggie Zeidel said. “As a group we played dodgeball, charades and watched movies.”

Togetherness enjoyed in these ensembles would not be complete without directors. Members of each group are motivated by their teachers and are lucky to feel a deep sense of mutual respect.

Erik Christiansen, affectionately known to his pupils as “Doc,” helps his students realize the perfect pitch.

“The thing that I will miss most about Concert Choir is the moments when everyone finally tunes in to Doc’s instruction, and we really bond together and create music,” Johnson said.

Orchestra members reveal their admiration for their mentor on Jones Day, an event where members dress up as their director, Jerry Jones.

“Superficially, it’s something we want to do because it’ll be funny,” Feehan-Nelson  said. “However, I think it’s also a sign of respect. We know the orchestra wouldn’t be where it is today without him.”

Dennis Lindsay and Mike Walk encourage their band students to work together as a team, striving to perfect their music together.

“The band students and our directors work well together because everyone is working towards a common goal,” Zeidel said. “There really are no individuals.”

A definite message echoed through each member: Music at Stillwater changed his or her life. After passing the levy, the bustling music hallway echoed with a booming sigh of relief and resounding “thank you.”

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