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3 Things I Learned as a Member of a Children’s Chorus

You might have noticed a new face at Junior Chorus rehearsals the second half of the season. Meet Karli Anderson! Karli is the newest member of the CCSA Team and Family. She is the wonderful intern who has helped so much at rehearsals, and with the administrative side here in the CCSA office. Karli was asked to write a few thoughts about her own experience as a young chorister...

Inline image 1When I was 11, I auditioned for the San Francisco Girls Chorus, a chorus school made up of 4 ensemble levels and a touring group.  I placed in the second highest level, (Level III) and spent the next four years in rehearsals 2-3 times a week.  Looking back, those years shaped me drastically as both a musician and a student.

Now, as a growing choir director, I use those experiences and memories to shape my own plans for future students.  To do so, I’ve taken a step back and tried to quantify what it is exactly that I learned, and I’ve come up with three major points.

Music skills.  The most obvious, but also the most thorough.  Not only did I learn how to read music, but how to understand and interpret it as well.  (I also learned how to pretend to sing in German, but that’s another story)  In earlier levels, rehearsals were focused on “how to sing in multiple parts” and basic music theory.  But once I reached the performing choirs, rehearsals were instead focused on turning the notes we learned into music.  Which brings me to my next point…

Discipline.  Every voice mattered, even in a choir as large as ours.  If one person sings a wrong note, the entire choir sounds bad.  Once I reached Level IV, the top performing group of the chorus school, we were given music, and expected to learn and memorize it on our own.  With concerts every other month and constantly changing repertoire, we simply did not have time to go over every person’s part.  It was up to each singer to sit down at a piano and learn her music, and everyone would know if you didn’t.

Passion.  In our Spring Concert of 2007, we performed “Barter” by René Clausen.  It was the first time I was ever brought to tears while singing on-stage.  There was a moment when the poem and the harmonies just clicked, creating a moment of utter beauty and emotion that was unprecedented in all of my performing experience.  Everything else before had been fun and enjoyable, but this was truly meaningful.

What is the result of all this training?  Even that is something I got to experience as a chorister.  Every year, during the annual Christmas concert at the symphony hall, SFGC alumni are invited to come up on stage to join for the last two songs.  These songs have never changed and every chorister regardless of level knows them.  When I was still in the chorus, watching all those women walk up on stage was striking.  I saw what it was to be a part of something bigger than just me, something that stays with you forever.

Now as a graduate of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, I get to walk up those stage steps to sing next to those 10 years my junior and 15 years my senior.  The power behind that 4-part harmony sung by hundreds of women, all of us united by countless rehearsals and performances across the years, never ceases to amaze and inspire me.

Karli is currently enrolled as a Masters in Choral Conducting student at UTSA. She holds Bachelors in Musical Studies from Oberlin College, where she worked for two years as assistant conductor the Women’s Chorale. She spends her summers working with youth in music at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan. Her position with CCSA is as Graduate Conducting Intern, and she works with our young choristers as they grow in their own musical experiences.