Chieftain Singers a hit at music fest
The Chieftain Singers' recent trip to a Chicago area music festival was all about music -- and more.
"One of my hopes was that they would expand their world, that their view of the world would become larger," said Tonganoxie vocal music instructor Joyce Steeby. "I think it did."
The 16 students who are in Chieftain Singers, Steeby, her assistant Carolyn Day and two chaperones, Vicki Carty and Denise Bixby, attended a Heritage Music Festival at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Ill.
The group, which traveled to Chicago on a chartered bus, left THS Thursday night and returned Sunday night, weary but exuberant. The choir, which Steeby said was praised every step of the way, proudly displayed their newly won plaque.
Students in 14 choirs from nine schools, including Paola High School, participated in the weekend-long event. The Chieftain Singers group was one of four chamber choirs. The group received a gold rating from cumulative scores assessed by three judges.
This was the second time THS senior Heather Melchior had been to the festival. She also went as a Chieftain Singer two years ago.
"Both times were pretty cool," Heather said.
She noted differences in the two trips.
"This time there were more choirs and the competition was a little tougher," Heather said. "The last one we went to, it wasn't really a competition against different schools. You just got rated, like at regionals or state."
One of the highlights of the trip, Heather said, was the Medieval times banquet -- an event that two years ago inspired the THS vocal music department to begin holding a Christmas madrigal fund-raiser of their own.
In a presentation ceremony following the Medieval banquet, Heather, and another senior who had also participated in the earlier
trip, Joel Nido, accepted the gold award for the Chieftain Singers.
In addition to this honor, the Chieftain Singers choir was one of four groups invited to participate in another festival.
Steeby said this invitation is based on winning a gold award, and more.
"The criteria are for excellence in performance and also the demeanor of the students -- not just during their performance ... when they're observing other choirs, moving through the building and getting on and off the bus," Steeby said.
Steeby said she was proud of the students throughout the trip.
"It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful these students are," Steeby said. "Their level of respect for one another and for all the adults who were traveling with them."
Even the bus driver, who has driven groups for 48 years, said he was impressed with their behavior, Steeby said.
The cost of the trip was paid by the students, as well as the school district. The district contributed $3,000 for transportation and the students were each responsible for raising $386. The VIP Booster Club also helped with the funding, Steeby said.
For Steeby, the trip was an opportunity to become better-acquainted with the students.
It's different from in the classroom or passing them in the hallway, she said.
"There's usually not really time to get to know them well," Steeby said. "... I kept picking up on things like how they helped each other when one of them was getting tired and a little grumpy ... watching some of these young men being gentlemen -- all of these little things falling into place."
Steeby said she appreciated the students' families.
"I kept realizing what wonderful parents these kids had, what wonderful grandparents they have at home, because they've all been raised well," Steeby said. "I'm trying to catch these parents little by little and thank them for the excellent job they have been doing with their sons and daughters -- it makes my job so enjoyable."
This is what trips like this are all about, she said.
"Overall, one of my main goals is not only that they become better musicians," Steeby said, "but that through the process of experiencing music together and working together that they become more human -- and I've seen that."
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