In the midst of all school trips that are now cancelled, I too share in that disappointment. Personally, I had my journalism convention in Nashville that I have been waiting to attend for two years. I find that I can move forward, in a way, by looking to the past. As funny as that sounds, showing gratitude towards past events and holding onto those memories brings me joy. Last January, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a conference held by the Colorado Music Educator Program, or CMEA, with my choir. We were honored to be selected to attend, and we soaked every minute of it in.
Vox Femina is one of five choirs in the program. It is the select women’s choir, consisting of sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have gotten into the program by auditioning. At the beginning of this school year in 2019, our directors, Bri McCormick and John Garner told us that they had submitted recordings from concerts in the past year. CMEA takes in hundreds of submissions each year in numerous categories, ours being treble choirs. Few choirs are selected to perform at this convention, where music teachers across the state can attend the performances and specific sessions. Out of hundreds of choirs in our category, we found out that Vox Femina was selected as the top treble choir in the state.
As a choir, we felt excited, surprised, and very honored. We also felt an immense responsibility to own up to last year’s Vox Femina, as most of it was composed of graduating seniors. We wanted to create the same rich sound, and take our abilities even further.
The first semester of the school year was only focused on learning music for our performance, months in advance. We prepared six songs more advanced than anything we had ever done before. Learning music is a complicated process. We start typically without even using words and just learning the melody. Learning songs comes with determination, but also a bit of tension. Oftentimes we would break into our sections to work on only our voice part, calming frustrations with not understanding specific parts. The most amazing feeling is when a song comes together. We finish a piece and all say, “woah” because we are so excited it sounds incredible.
When the time had come shortly after winter break, the group took a trip down to Colorado Springs. When we arrived at our hotel, we had the evening to explore before dinner. Singers went on walks to the lake viewed from our hotel, took naps, and ate snacks. A personal favorite of mine was everyone going on the balconies and seeing everyone from other rooms. We all talked and laughed, as others joined the mini outdoor gathering one by one.
At dinner that night, over thirty people all gathered around one long table for pasta at Macaroni Grill. With paper and crayons at the table in hand, all kinds of games were played. We challenged each other to write things upside down, and played ultimate tic-tac-toe.
During early dinner we sang Happy Birthday to a sophomore whose birthday was the day we performed. I must say, you will never hear a more beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday then that of a room full of choir kids. Our three-part harmonies and various octaves filled the space, echoing into the rest of the restaurant. Later when a waiter came with a dessert and candle for her, we happily sang it once more.
That evening we rode the bus to the Broadmoor’s convention center, getting to practice our set in the space we would be performing the next day. Unfortunately, the room was completely carpet—from the floors to the walls. Since that would deaden our sound, we made it our goal to truly sing out, and use more expression so it could be seen even in the farthest rows.
Loading onto the bus was exciting the next morning. Everyone was amazed at everyone, seeing fancy hairdos and makeup that was rarely seen on certain individuals. We all pressed our faces to the glass when we saw McCormick walk outside, in a kelly-green, sparkling dress. We were equally thrilled when we saw Garner, wearing a suit filled with kelly-green accents. Our nerves were ignited upon arriving at the convention center. As we warmed up, the phrase “this is really happening” floated around the room. We prepared for an entire semester leading up to that exact moment.
Before we knew it, we were walking onto the stage and risers. Performing was an unforgettable experience for Vox Femina, for the students and the choir program. We were the first choir who was invited to sing at CMEA. When we sang, we were not worrying about remembering the words to complicated songs or unsure about anything. We simply were present in the moment, filling the room with the volume of our voices and our passion for the songs. Each song had a story behind it, as we talked about them in class. We read the lyrics as a class and decided what the main themes were, so we could bring out our emotions for each unique piece.
Performing is an act of trust. We trust our choir to all remember the music and sound like one voice. We trust our pianist, Hannah Swanson, to drive us along with her incredible skills. We also trust our directors to show us the dynamics and try different things in each song. Once we know our music, they can add whatever they want, and we will follow.
As a choir, we were honored to attend. It was our highlight of the school year for that class and we all committed to enjoying the experience, no matter what. Now, I miss that. I miss my choir, and we will never be able to do our last concert of the year. However, I am proud that we gave the performance of a lifetime.
As COVID-19 surrounds and changes our lives right now, we must remember that there is life beyond the pandemic, and we will return back to it. For now, I am away from my choir and the determination that fills the room, which is saddening. I hold onto the memories I made at CMEA to remember to be grateful for all the experiences in my past, especially in these times.