A unified voice: Poplarville High School students sing
If students and faculty are walking past the Fine Arts building at Poplarville High School around lunchtime they will hear the vocal talents of some of the school’s most talented singers.
During that time, music teacher Andrea Will is guiding her students on a journey through the world of music.
Will has been teaching music for the past 12 years at both the elementary and high school levels. Her parents were music teachers and she has been playing piano since she was 7-years-old.
“Fine Arts and choir in particular is unique in that we are a team, but instead of wins and losses, like other teams, our main job is to create emotional experiences for our audience,” Will said. “Music impacts each one of us in powerful ways and recent research shows that the chemicals in the brain that connects us to each other are the most prevalent in those who sing in choirs.”
Will said that each child should be given opportunities to create music throughout their education. Children who struggle in other academic subjects can excel in music and may prevent them from dropping out, she said.
Each day Will begins her class with a physical and verbal warm-up. One exercise is called the rose and puppy, a breathing technique that utilizes the diaphragm.
The students work on sight singing and Will gives “mini” voice lessons to students to improve technique and vowel production.
“We also work on singing the music expressively and with appropriate emotion depending on the genre and time period of the piece,” Will said. “I like to use imagery to put students in the correct frame of mind and games to help reinforce the concept of team work.”
Last year, all four of the choir’s seniors received choir scholarships to college.
“You can’t beat those odds,” Will said. “I want all my students to know that if they work hard and focus they will have wonderful opportunities to pay for college and build relationships just by singing in a choir.”
Kaylee Gill is a senior this year and is hoping to receive a choir scholarship to Pearl River Community College.
“I love to sing and a challenge,” Gill said. “I’ve been in the choir almost a year now and have been working hard. It’s fun and I’m learning how to sing in foreign languages.”
Sophomore Sadie Kesler has been a choir member for the past two years and sings first soprano.
“We are like a family and may not always agree, but we get over it,” Kesler said. “It’s hard but fun work. We sing a variety of Latin and Italian songs.”
Senior Sarah Smith plans to attend Pearl River Community College after graduation. This is her first semester in choir.
“I always wanted to take the course, but my schedule was too full,” Smith said. “Singing makes me feel amazing. I’m telling a story and inspiring others and making people laugh and cry. It’s like a melodic form of acting. My classmates and I may not agree all the time, but we work together as needed. It’s like a sisterhood of singing.”
Will wants her choir students to take away a sense of belonging from her class.
“I want our choir to be a family where we experience not only making music together, but also life lessons as well,” Will said. “I want them to have gained a basic knowledge of music theory and vocal technique so if they choose to continue their music education in college they will be prepared. My favorite part of my job is seeing the faces of my students when something we’ve been working on just clicks. The best reward I can ever receive is hearing beautiful music coming from my students that have worked so hard.”
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