PAMELA COTANT For the State Journal
Members of the La Follette high school choir put on a musical show for a kindergarten class, hoping to inspire those just starting their studies.
Then the show, performed on the Henderson Elementary School playground, drew a larger audience as other students began to congregate when they went out for recess.
One of La Follette’s choir members, junior Zym Jackson, remembers what it was like to look up to the older students.
“There’s something magical about it,” Jackson said. “‘You’re so cool (Jackson remembers thinking), I want to do this when I’m older.'”
The community choir performance—a musical story hour—provided an opportunity to encourage students to read and perhaps join a choir when they grow up. It featured the school’s choir and concert choirs, with La Follette choir teacher Courtney Lindl reading books and singing songs that accompanied the themes. The high school students interacted with the younger ones by asking a few questions and blowing bubbles. At one point, one of the kindergartners shot back, “We’re friends now!”
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“It’s been an amazing experience for our young learners to see their potential,” said Paddy Greeley, assistant principal at Henderson. “They get to see older examples of where they might be when they go to high school.”
Henderson, which is near La Follette, is a foster school and one of the choir members, Julia Wendt, attended primary school and reached out to organize the gig. Wendt, who is an assistant director, also directed during story time.
“It’s really cool to think you could inspire students,” Wendt said.
Last year, La Follette created an online choir concert for the community, and teachers and parents joined in the singing.
Then this year, the choirs decided to perform musical story time and worked with Henderson’s music teacher, Rachel Linsmeier Hart. It was originally scheduled for Henderson kindergarten and first graders, but was postponed twice and by the time it was rescheduled, only one class was available. Lindl said she asked the choir students if they still wanted to continue and they overwhelmingly voted “yes.” The students interviewed said the experience taught them a lesson in perseverance.
Lindl and her 8-year-old daughter, Colette, chose the books. The first book was “Piggy” by Trevor Lai, which is about making friends, and the second was “Jabari Jumps” by Gaia Cornwall, which is about taking risks. The last book was “Sing“. Children’s book illustrator Tom Lichtenheld created the visual history of the 1971 song written by Raposo.
Created as the signature song of “Sesame Street”, it celebrates perseverance, self-expression and the power of music to help find your voice.
“Sing” makes a lot of sense to the choir because it was a closing song to recognize the singers at our spring concert, Lindl said.
Songs included favorites such as “All You Need Is Love,” written by John Lennon for the Beatles, and “Seasons of Love,” from the Broadway musical “Rent,” written and composed by Jonathan Larson.
The choir board decided on story time after Lindl told them about hosting a community event, and the students discussed different ideas that she and the choir members came up with.
“It’s a fun way to get you to read stories in a different and unique way to hopefully inspire students,” Lindl said. “I strongly believe that if you get the mic, you should use it for good.”
The council, made up of students from different La Follette choirs, helps guide class decisions such as what music is played, what shows are held, and what social events are held. The board also does marketing through a post created for that.
The concept was initiated at La Follette by Lindl, who is in her second year at La Follette. She said a choir council was something that was done at the University of San Francisco, where she had been a visiting professor. Lindl wanted to try it with high school students because one of the changing educational standards — learning goals of what students should know and be able to do at each grade level — includes more student voices, said Lindl.
Lindl said the choir committee was “fantastic”.
“I like it a lot,” Jackson said of the choir board. “(Lindl) wants us to be more involved.”
Senior Ian Harried, who plans to sing in a choir when he attends UW-Whitewater, said students chose three of four songs for the spring concert.
One of the initiatives of the choir board was to revive the tradition of Singing Valentines, which no longer existed when Lindl came to La Follette. Wendt took the lead and Harried ended up helping with the organization.
“Ms. Lindl is really listening to us,” said Wendt, who plans to study music education at Luther College.