Choir is booming

Chelsea Laurik

More stories from Chelsea Laurik

WJ’s advanced choir competing in state choir festival. Though they’ve always maintained healthy numbers, the WJ choir department is bigger this year than ever before.

Photo courtesy of Wildcatchoir

WJ’s advanced choir competing in state choir festival. Though they’ve always maintained healthy numbers, the WJ choir department is bigger this year than ever before.

The arts have always been a cherished part of the WJ community, but participation this year in the choir department is off the charts. For the first time ever, enrollment has soared past 200 students, spread over four choirs. The largest group is the advanced choir, clocking in at sixty nine students, followed by the general choir at sixty four.

“Our schools are jammed,” choir teacher Kelly Butler said.

When she started teaching at WJ eight years ago, Butler was responsible for around 140 choir students. After that first year, this jumped to the 160-170 range. This stayed consistent up until this year when an unprecedented 203 students enrolled.

She was happy to report that she’s been able to maintain high participation in the advanced choirs as well as general, meaning that freshmen aren’t just taking the class for an art credit and then leaving the program. She’s had entire friend groups join the advanced choir, with one student introducing three friends to the music department.

“The nice thing about choir is you don’t have to have been singing your whole life. As long as there’s enough strength, which these groups have, the couple of new people, they’ll figure it out. They’ll be fine.” Butler said.

Butler isn’t worried about the class size. After all, advanced choir enrollment has been in the 60s for the past couple of years. She’s experienced in dealing with large groups of students at one time, and said she’d rather have 200 people than be begging students to join choir. She admits however, that having her three biggest classes back to back in the first three periods of the day is a lot to deal with.

“I think [Mrs. Butler] does a good job making sure everyone is involved at the level that they want to be so that no one feels like they’re specifically singled out,” advanced choir student Becca Bennett said.

Bennett has been involved in choir since her freshman year, and she describes the experience as a fun and relaxing point of her day when she can make music with her friends, and not feel too much pressure to be perfect. Her choir currently has sixty nine people.

“Mrs. Butler does a really good job of balancing it and making sure everyone gets their own individual time,” Bennett said.

The use of sectionals, an activity in class when each voice part separates to work on their music within their group, is popular with Bennett and other advanced choir student Quinn Harris. Though Harris laments the lack of ability to single out and fix problem areas in a choir this big, she loves Mrs. Butler and enjoys singing and participating in class bonding exercises.

It’s obvious that WJ students love the arts, and the choir program is flourishing under Butler’s tutelage. There are no current plans to cap enrollment, in fact, administration wants Butler to make some choirs even bigger. She has had to fight to keep Madrigals (the most selective and advanced ensemble) at 32 people, which she already believes is too big. Down the line, Butler has dreams of adding a fifth choir (either all boys or all girls) to her already saturated program.