Gateway: News

Hugh McMillan’s Kid’s Corner: Choir singers find harmony in life, too

Thanks to recently retired Gig Harbor High School Choir Director Wayne Lackman, I had a great experience with young vocalists Saturday at Agnus Dei Lutheran Church.

Students from three local high schools gathered there for a Choral Leadership Workshop. They learned about what it means to be a choral leader from Randy Spitzer, artistic director of the Tacoma-based adult choir, Cora Voce. The workshop was made possible by a generous donation of $1,000 from an anonymous supporter of kids.

The choirs were from Clover Park High School, directed by Suna Chung; Gig Harbor High School, directed by Ryan Batcheller; and Peninsula High School, directed by Alison Ellis.

Spitzer acted as the workshop leader working, with the students on important musical concepts like phrasing, rhythms, articulation, vowels, and intonation. The students were introduced to important leadership concepts like the importance of building trust and the value of coaching fellow choir students.

I was expecting to hear lots of music. Instead I was very impressed that the kids were hungrily absorbing the leadership concepts, taking notes, and seriously expressing their views. So committed, some had to be coaxed from learning to get the tasty free lunch, following which they beautifully practiced singing “Danny Boy” and other tunes.

”I came today not really knowing much about what I was going to be doing,” said PHS Senior Luke Golden. “I just knew I was going to learn and I was going to sing. However, I got a lot more out of it than I expected. I learned how to become a better leader and example for others in my high school choir, for my teammates on my sports teams, and for others in my community.”

PHS freshman Faith Stock said she learned “how to help and put trust in others to become a better team. Through lots of team-building activities and reading, we were taught that it is very important to remain unified as a choir and to make sure everyone is equally involved.”

”Being at this event has helped me learn how to open up more to others,” said GHHS’s Ahria De Borel, “What I think was an important lesson is learning how to trust others and helping them with their problems. Listen to both sides of the story before you assume things, and talk it out. This isn’t just for choir, but for all aspects of life for every event.”

PHS sophomore Olivia Fong felt, “After attending this program, all of us walked away with some important lessons about how we should act in the real world ... This program made me excited to bring back all of this information to help make my choir a better one.”

GHHS’s Cypress Sechrist has been both in drama and choir. She explained, “In theater your voice is very much about you and standing out in your own sound. In choir it’s about unification you have to make your voice the same level and pitch as everyone else to make a unified sound. With the help and trust of my director and fellow choir students I’ve found my voice within the choir, not just within myself.

”Being an effective leader means that you set the vibe,” declared PHS’ Emmalee Van Komen. “If you won’t take constructive criticism, no one else will and things won’t get done.”

”Trust is a two-way street,” emphasized GHHS sophomore M. Rain Fishman. “Having the support of those around us is incredibly crucial to being able to have the courage of using the most vulnerable instrument we possess; our voice.”

Cora Voce is an adult auditioned choir based in Tacoma, explained Spitzer.

“Its mission is to inspire, enrich and educate. In fact, over the past seven years, Cora Voce has supported eleven public school choral programs, including Clover Park, Gig Harbor and Peninsula High Schools with more than $70,000 in program-building grants.

Spitzer did not mention, but I have not forgotten, that a few years ago Cora Voce provided a substantial sum of money to Vaughn Elementary’s music program.

To contribute to support Cora Voce and its mission, or for more information about performances, please visit the website at”