Chorale's high school mentorship program

On and off, over the course of its existence, Chorale has included high school singers in its ranks.  My justification for inviting these young people to sing with us, has been my memory of the wonderful experience I personally had, as a high school student, singing with an adult choir in my home town. In my mind, they were so serious, so business-like; they moved so fast; and they sang such advanced repertoire.  My high school choir was good, but this was something special—it reinforced for me the idea that I would be singing for a long, long time, and that singing was something adults loved and worked at.  I hoped to make such an opportunity available for high school students through Chorale, and broached the subject of establishing a “high school mentorship program” (one needs to name a thing, I guess) to Chorale’s board of directors-- and was met with an enthusiastic response.  We decided that we wanted to include four students in our ranks, and that we would hold competitive auditions to fill these positions.  Things moved slowly—for the first year and a half we had only one young soprano with us.   Now, finally, we have four high school singers, learning Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.  I’ll have them introduce themselves:

“My name is Adrienne Bertsche, and I am currently a senior at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. It has been exciting for me to sing with the ChicagoChorale for the last two seasons, where I have learned some wonderful choral repertoire, increased my depth of knowledge about music, and developed my understanding of what it means to be a singer in the contexts of different eras, works, and composers. Singing in Chorale has also helped to develop my sight-reading, technical proficiency, and language pronunciation. My experience in Chorale has nurtured my passion for music to the point where I am now applying and auditioning at a number of conservatories, and looking to continue my vocal studies as a performance major. “

“My name is Maggie Blackburn and I am a senior at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox. I sing in my school choir, church choir, University of Saint Francis Singing Saints Choir, and now sing with the Chicago Chorale for this production. I plan on pursuing a degree in vocal performance and cannot wait to see where that takes me. Singing with the Chicago Chorale is a wonderful opportunity for me to grow as a singer and performer, and also gives me a chance to get a feel for how my career might be. I am extremely excited for the opportunity to participate in this production of Missa Solemnis and hope to sing with the Chicago Chorale again in the future.”

“Hello, my name is Sasha Lilovich and I am a sophomore at Crown Point High School. I've enjoyed music since I was small, and began music lessons at around the age of nine. I've since begun classical voice studies with Brenda Roberts, and had the opportunity to sing with the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. I was a member of Northwest Indiana Childrens Choir for five years. I also was able to receive gold status each of the four years I competed in ISSMA. I've used my talents in singing at benefits raising funds for various charities such as the St. Jude battered Women's Shelter and the Northwest Indiana Food Pantry. Right now I'm in my school's concert choir and take lessons with Brenda. I hope that my time with Chorale will help me improve my sight reading, as well as be a pleasant experience. As for my future, that's a mystery even to myself. Although I'd love a career in music, I also want a steady income. Nonetheless I still plan to, at the very least, double major with music when the time comes.”

Elijah Smith

My name is Elijah Smith and I am currently a junior at ChiArts High School, studying classical voice. I plan to go to college for and make a career out of classical singing, and Chicago Chorale will help me prepare for what lies ahead. Outside of the Chicago Chorale, I perform with my high school, ChiArts at many events around Chicago. I chose to audition for the Chorale in hopes of gaining musical and professional experience in the music world. Not only does it help me with the actual singing part of classical voice, it helps me learn more about music theory and the actual rehearsal life of being in a choir. I hope to continue singing with Chicago Chorale in the events to come.”

Each singer has as “mentor” a regular member of Chorale, who makes them feel at home and helps to interpret Chorale’s culture for them. We are exploring ideas about specific programs and opportunities we might institute in the future; mostly, though, these young singers have had to jump right in and do the work that adult singers do, and experience the learning of this very difficult music just as the adults do.  So far, things are going very well; we plan to continue with, and expand, this program in the future.