June 3, 2015 by Anja Oss ·
TJ’s exclusive Monticello choir is working hard and performing frequently to end the 2014-2105 school year.
This year, choir teacher Tambyr Reed was looking to expand TJ’s Monticello choir into a traveling, competitive group. The seven students in TJ’s most exclusive choir began experimenting with a cappella arrangements and perfecting their repertoire so that they could perform all over Colorado. Though many of their performances are not competitive, Monticello is always looking to impress.
Before the school year started, second-year choir teacher Reed began planning and auditioning TJ students for the top choirs: Monticello choir and Advanced choir. “I wanted to get an elite team of students who knew how to sight read at a higher level and could move at a faster pace than anyone else. I only get to take my other choirs to one competition every year so I really wanted to work with this year’s Monticello so that we could compete more,” explained Reed. Many students audition for Advanced and Monticello each year, but only a select handful make it into the top choir. “Monticello is always the top group. The cream of the crop. They are the ones that are most driven with the best attitude that want to excel academically in music. Plus everyone is hilarious and has a really good time,” said Reed.
This year, the choir consisted of seniors Marcos Descalzi, Angel Munoz, and Taja Shannon, and juniors Asia Arellano, Jordyn Chappell, Alexis Robinson, and Anja Oss. The choir learns about five complex songs every six weeks. “There is a ton more a capella because the hearing and the musicianship are at a much higher level than the rest of the choirs,” said Reed. What makes these songs challenging is the musicality. The group must keep a connection and listen to each other to stay on the same time and in the same key. Each individual must know what everyone in the group is feeling during the song to correctly interpret the piece. Though this is difficult, the choir bares the task well and always manages to complete the songs assigned without alterations to the original score.
“Monticello is a family,” said junior Chappell. “It’s so small and you see the same faces every day. You can’t help but love them,” elaborated Descalzi. This attitude gives the choir an edge that not many high school choirs have. Reed said, “Monticello is not stuck up or snobby. They are genuinely happy to see the other choir members do well and they hope that they do well and promote them doing well and being in choir in general.” These Spartans are always looking to uphold TJ’s values, no matter where they are performing. “It’s good to continue the old choir legacy and respect people. And show people we do something with our time,” said Descalzi.
Monticello most recently traveled to the University Of Northern Colorado to perform and compete in the UNC Jazz Festival on April 17. “We worked really hard to perfect all of our a capella songs. We practiced these songs a lot so we can be good when it comes time for shows,” said Chappell. Though the group spent a lot of time working to get first place, they found the competition disappointing. “The UNC Jazz festival was a bit disappointing because they were very disorganized,” said Reed. “But despite all of that, having a second place award is not too shabby for never having done something like that before.”
Though the UNC Jazz Festival was the first major competition of the year, it was not the first performance and certainly will not be the last. This year the group performed at both pep rallies, the TJ craft fair, and has completed four concerts. Several weeks ago, they competed again at the Music in the Parks festival and received second place overall. Still to come are performances at Hamilton Middle School, intended to recruit incoming choir students, a final choir concert on May 19, and performing at graduation. “It’s going to be a very sad time,” said Descalzi of his final performance, “but it seems appropriate that I’ll get to sing my way out of DPS.” The final Monticello performance of the year will be at graduation on May 30, where the 2015 graduates will be taking their final bow. “Being in Monticello has been an amazing experience, I have met six amazing people, and I have had a great year this year and I don’t want to leave. We’ve become a family and I couldn’t ask for anything better” said Shannon.
With the school year coming to an end, Reed and current Monticello juniors are already planning for next year. “Next year’s group is going to be much bigger, and because of that, it is going to enable us to do tons more stuff: more music, tougher music, more festivals, including the madrigal festival at CU in October and Music In the Parks festival in San Antonio, Texas in the spring,” said Reed. Since Reed has become theatre director, choir has gained more attention and the program is expanding quickly. “Generally it’s upperclassmen only, with the exception of a few bright and extremely talented students,” said Reed. Next year there will be at least three sophomores and one incoming freshman. Sam Chappell, an eighth grade student at Hill Middle School and brother of Jordyn Chappell, auditioned to be part of the choir next year. Chappell said of her brother’s participation in choir next year “My brother is joining Monticello next year and I’m super excited because he is going to do super well but he’s extremely nervous.” Jaison Knowling is excited to be in the choir next year, especially with the traveling. “I’m very excited. We’re going to be awesome,” said the freshman. “And guess who’s taking first?! Thomas Jefferson,” Knowling exclaimed. Next year’s Monticello, of over twenty members, will be driving to San Antonio by bus for an unprecedented competition and competing against other choirs from around the nation.
TJ’s Monticello choir has been part of TJ history for awhile, but Reed is looking for it to become a bigger part of TJ in the future. “Monticello and all of the choirs should perform more often because their talent deserves to be shared and they should also be recognized for the hard work you put in by winning trophies and earning accolades and respect,” said Reed. As for improving the choir itself, Reed is looking to take Monticello to a higher level, much like many high-level college choirs. “I want them to be able to be more confident to sing without me directing, to be self-led on the stage, and eventually, when we have the opportunity and more money, to get them working with microphones more.” Monticello is looking to end the year strong with a graduation performance, the last performance for the three seniors. The performers are sad to be leaving their choir family, but are looking forward to their varying degree of future musical involvement. “I’m going to Colorado College and I am very excited because I’ll sing there too. Choir really helped me a lot,” said Descalzi.
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