Lula McCain, 15, a sophomore in the choir at Kettle Run High School, spent hours Friday and Saturday rehearsing for the 2023 All County Choir concert Jan. 21, but she never grew tired of it. She sings for the joy it always brings her.
“It’s almost like an escape from reality,” she said of singing with her fellow choir students. “We spent all that time practicing just for a couple of minutes on stage, but during those three minutes, it takes you to another world and you’re connecting with people on a whole different level because you’re making something beautiful together,” Lula said.
The annual All County Choir drew a full house to Kettle Run High School on Saturday, Jan 23. About 160 choir students from Kettle Run, Liberty and Fauquier high schools, in addition to all five county middle schools — Auburn, Cedar Lee, Marshall, Taylor and Warrenton — sang during the concert.
That’s up from about 100 students last year, according to Heath West, in his second year as choir director at Kettle Run and Auburn. The numbers of students taking choir classes are up as schools continue to recover from virtual learning during the COVID pandemic, he said. Choir over Zoom doesn’t measure up to making music in the same room.
The concert featured two guest conductors, Jacob Lash and Dominick Izzo, both from Prince William County, along with their accompanists, Pam Sottosanti, a Northern Virginia piano teacher and musician, and Betsy Hermann, a long-time music teacher.
The music was a mix of styles, including a couple of African pieces and a parody called “Duct Tape” about all the potential uses for the ubiquitous tape.
Music classes not only raise students’ spirits, but also help students academically, West said. “Research has shown over the years that students who are making music on a weekly basis are more intelligent, more plugged in, more involved,” he said. “They score higher on their standardized testing.”
Music is also good for students’ social/emotional learning, he said. After the pandemic, “It’s really helped them to be in a better space mental-health wise.”
Lula, who has been singing in choir at school since 5th grade, agreed. “This is something that’s creative, and it engages parts of your brain that I feel like gets ignored a lot during the school day. “I have always had a love for music,” she said during a break in rehearsal for Saturday’s concert. She has taken voice lessons and during the pandemic taught herself to play guitar and ukulele.
After she leaves high school, she hopes to pursue a career in music. She aspires to Broadway, but thinks being a choir teacher like West would be good too.“I love coming into fourth block (choir),” she said.
The camaraderie is priceless, she said. “I sing a lot on my own. I do a lot of open mics and stuff like that, and that’s fun, but (nothing compares to) singing with a group of people, especially with such a tight-knit group of people because we’ve all known each other for a while.
“And when we get together, our blend is beautiful.”
Reach Colleen LaMay at firstname.lastname@example.org