Every Spring the Seniors of Prime Voci are asked to write an essay about their SGC experience. In 2014 we had eight young ladies graduate.
When I was eight, I was convinced I was nothing special. I went to school, played the odd sport (badly), and sang in my school’s choir. We were pretty terrible, but over time, I came to realize that music was my calling. Three of my friends were in the Seattle Girls’ Choir, and I decided to audition and join them. At the end of third grade, I was accepted into Allegra.
My first SGC experience was 2005 Choir Camp, which was the best part of my summer. I made friends with girls in Allegra, Cantamus, and even Prime Voci—my “camp sister” was kind and caring, which made my experience at camp all the better. That first choir camp helped me come out of my shell, as well—I signed up for the talent show on a whim, and performed “Proud Mary” a cappella. Watching as the conductors, older girls, and my fellow Allegra choristers started clapping along and cheering me on, I knew that I had finally found my home.
The next nine years—two in Allegra, two in Cantamus, and five in Prime Voci—have defined me as a person in the best ways. In addition to music theory and vocal technique, the Seattle Girls’ Choir has taught me leadership, discipline, and how to stand for three hours without fainting or complaining.
My participation in Allegra coincided with my fourth- and fifth-grade years, as I tried different personalities on, desperate to figure myself out. Choir was a comforting constant when I fought with my friends or had trouble at school. I knew that walking into the choir center meant leaving my problems at the door—forgetting about them, even for a little while.
In the same vein, I thank my lucky stars that I was in Cantamus during most of middle school. I was bullied almost constantly, but took comfort in the fact that for five hours a week, I was among friends. My years in Cantamus were the most transformative of my life thus far; I grew as a person, but also as a musician. I remember something my father once said to me: “Alex Gagiu is the glue that holds the choir together, because he turns little Allegra girls into mature Prime women in only a few years.” Nothing could be truer, and I am eternally grateful for my time in Cantamus. Recently, I was able to give back to them; I gave four lessons on vocal health to Cantamus as part of my Senior Project.
The past five years have been tumultuous for me, to say the least, but Prime Voci and Jake Winkler have helped me through it all. I spent my first year in PV suffering a vocal injury and enduring my final year at a school where I was ostracized, but my vocal fold healed and I graduated from Seattle Country Day mostly unscathed. From there, my years in Prime only got better. Our European tour in 2012 changed me forever. I fell in love with Germany, and am returning this summer. One memory that sticks out to me occurred after the graduation dinner in Prague. My friends and I went to the boardwalk by the river, and as we thanked each other tearfully for all that we had helped each other become, I knew that we were all thinking the same thing: We will never be here again.
To be honest, this essay is the hardest thing I have ever had to write. How am I supposed to encapsulate the best years of my life into a mere modicum of words? Choir means so much more to me than I can say here. It has been my rock since I was an exuberant, eccentric third-grader; as I graduate a mature, eccentric eighteen-year-old, I am confident that the memories will stay, even though I’ll be gone. Choir has made me what I am today. I owe this organization my love of music, my work ethic, and quite possibly my life—I only hope I have done my duty as a chorister in paying some of it back. I will love and support the Seattle Girls’ Choir for as long as I live, just as it has loved and supported me.
Seattle Girls’ Choir has allowed me an opportunity to be involved in a group of hardworking and kind individuals. I value being involved in a variety of groups; from the beginning, I have been involved in dance, choir, girl scouts, and a rigorous school schedule. The balance between these activities has made me a well-rounded and multifaceted person, and I hope that this carries me forward in my future. Even after my past ten years in SGC, I still might not jump at the first opportunity to sing alone or in a public setting, but I know that choir has been a safe environment where each voice and person is accepted and integrated, which is what makes us so successful.
There have been quite a few memorable moments over the past years. To name a few, the power turning off in the church in Germany, singing “Ava Maria” from the balconies, being with Hali as she rode her first rollercoaster, Jake breaking a variety of pencils over the years, and being sick for literally every Christmas Ship I ever partook in. However, it is the friendships that I have made that will stick with me rather than the individual moments. I have learned that each person has something unique to offer; the best singer may not be the best sight-reader and the girl with the softest voice may excel at carrying out her part. I think this is an important lesson for any girl in Seattle Girls’ Choir to remember. The purpose of choir is not to be better than those around you. Instead, it is to learn from them and allow them to help you grow as you do the same for them. The group setting allows individual flaws and peculiarities to be hidden and rather brings out the work of the group.
Overall, choir has provided me a place to be comfortable with myself and grow among others throughout the past years. Choir is a supportive environment; choristers encourage each other to be proud of who they are and what they do, whether the outside world looks at us like geeky high school singers or not. I am proud to have grown up alongside these talented young ladies, and I cannot wait to see what their futures hold.
Okay, I’ll be honest: for much of my life, I was a closeted choir girl. My school friends must have thought I was in some kind of cult that prevented me from hanging out after school on Thursdays, or maybe they really did fall for all those fabricated dentist appointments, flus, and visits from long-lost relatives. However, you can only get your teeth cleaned so many times, and as choir started eating up several afternoons each week plus weekends, telling the truth became inevitable: I sing in a choir.
There is a phase in middle school in which maybe three activities are socially acceptable, and “girls’ choir” certainly doesn’t make that list. Like a lot of kids, I sometimes struggled to fit in with my peers in school. Young adolescence is such an angst-ridden experience because everyone is trying to define their values and identity; belonging to a group, and belonging to the right group, feels essential. It would be untruthful to say that the social environment in choir is clique-free and all-inclusive. However, there is an important distinction: in choir, you have to collaborate with your peers; even if you aren’t standing next to your best friend, your voice has to blend with hers. You have to make music together.
SGC has given me the opportunity to sing repertoire that most other children’s choirs would never touch, from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Holst’s Ave Maria to Finnish pop songs. The unique theory program has given me a leg up in orchestra and the various other musical groups I have participated in over the years. I went into Prime Voci as a meek, insecure, and cripplingly shy thirteen-year-old. Now I’m a confident, extroverted, outspoken young woman. Just kidding! I still have a long way to go, but the dedication, focus, and team work that PV entails along with the sense of community it provides has helped me grow into both a better musician and a stronger communicator. The relationships I have formed in this organization are unlike any others in my life—I feel no need to compete with or validate my worth to the other girls in SGC because the work we do is collaborative; there are no stars or back-up singers. Sticking with this organization for all these years is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am proud to say that I sing in this choir.
“You who hold the world in your embrace, I carried you.” A line from Madeleine L’Engle’s poem “Mary Speaks,” put to music by Daniel Gawthrop. The poem reflects on the life of Jesus Christ from the perspective of the Virgin Mary as she watches Jesus die in her arms. A year ago—my twelfth year in the
choir—I sang the piece with SGC. It was a song I’d known ever since my parents purchased the 1995 Seattle Holiday album, and I felt honored to learn something that I’d always associated with a past, superior generation of the choir.
Although my parents were raised Catholic, I wasn’t brought up according to any religious faith, and choir performances during services have been my only exposure to church. As we learned “Mary Speaks,” I began to see the music differently from the many other traditional religious pieces in our repertoire. It wasn’t about worship, or holiness, or the kingdom of heaven. To me, it was about a human relationship—a woman who has all the love and respect in the world for her son, and who must watch him leave the earth before her. Mary “speaks” with a sense of amazement that she herself could have been the one who gave him life.
But the words alone were never the reason I’d almost always be crying at the song’s end. I’ve tried for a while now to define what exactly it is about music as a medium that affects me so deeply. I think I cry because I’m inspired by the human will to communicate through something other than language. Music has become a way for me to release emotion that is otherwise impossible to convey, or that I didn’t even know I could express, regardless of whether it is a piece I listen to or one that I sing.
Through the hardest months of senior year, I struggled to balance the ever-growing workload with extracurricular activities and social demands. Often a day felt like a decade, and I tried my hardest not to fall asleep on the bus on my way to choir. But choir remained my sanctuary—a time-freeze where all that was required of me was to be a part of something I love. Those three hours twice a week were enough to remind me that I could take things one day at a time, and everything would turn out fine. Music grounded me in a way that the reassurance of my parents, teachers, and friends could not.
I owe my resilience, my sense of discipline, and my tolerance to the last thirteen years I’ve spent with SGC. The bond I share with my friends from choir is the special unspoken kind, and one that I will always cherish. I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to be a member of something so unique for so long, and that it played such a large part in shaping who I am today.
I have participated in the Seattle Girls’ Choir since 1st grade, singing locally, touring worldwide, and recording. The choir has given me a wealth of musical knowledge, lifelong friends, and a love of music. Singing relieves my stress, brings me joy, and allows me to express myself whether I’m on stage in the Czech Republic or in the shower at home. Seattle Girls’ Choir provides me with an outlet of expression and a source of happiness.
The most valuable things choir has given me are musical literacy and friendship, without the opportunity I would not have the musical knowledge that I do today. The understanding of theory has allowed me to more fully appreciate all music and sounds around me. I am able to participate in discussions on music, be an educated listener, and read music at the drop of a hat. Just as reading opens up opportunities, so does reading music. I will forever be a musician because of the skills I was taught.
The friends I have made throughout my choir experience have been priceless. Spending so much time with my fellow choristers develops a bond between us all that is unlike any other. Working towards a common goal, united in an effort to make beautiful music, we form friendships that unify and helps us to create even more beautiful music.
The pride I feel when I hear my friends sing is unexplainable. I know their voices and experience great joy when I hear them accomplishing great beauty and expression. I am privileged to have known these fabulous women for many years, and now as I watch them graduate and continue to become even more inspiring, I can only thank the choir for giving us a space for our friendship to blossom.
I will miss the constant grounding the choir has given me, but I know the spirit of choir has been grounded within me and will always remain within me.
Elegance and Artistry
Angelic voices beat across the icy waters as Christmas approaches
Being jolly on the deck of the ship, dancing around the everlasting green tree ignited
Flying on the Lufthansa above the clouds
Suddenly in a whole different world
Walking and shopping and eating and laughing and talking
Beauty comes to our eyes and off of our vocal chords
Taking advantage of the sauna provided
On a boat on a beautiful spring day
A party and a feast to celebrate those who are moving on to other great things
Now that is me
Elegance and Artistry can come in different ways
A pencil breaking and making the room silent
Has meant to me
A gift of music, a gift of learning, a gift of teamwork, a gift of friendship
Beautiful performances in cathedrals, churches, recording studios, on a boat
I see music in a more complex design, with more understanding
There was no better place to do this
Than in SGC
Where Elegance and Artistry is defined
A place to be expressive, to work toward something, to challenge yourself
To the girls of future of SGC
Continue the Elegance and Artistry
And the unique sound
And the breathtaking performances that can only be done by us
And the special gift you have
And the bond
Grateful to have met so many talented, good-hearted people who will do great things in this world
I wish them the best
Let Elegance and Artistry be a part of our lives forever
I hold the title of being the only chorister to ever accidentally join the Seattle Girls’ Choir, I’m pretty proud of that wonderful accident. I’m not going to explain that accident, so ask me about it sometime.
I’m weird, really really weird, and pretty loud about it. My freak flag is twenty feet long, rainbow and covered in doodles, and I let it fly as high as it likes. I love this choir because it is full of people who understand my metaphorical sentient flag. These are the girls who hear you singing your favorite song, and instead of telling you to be quiet, they join you. These are the people who laugh when you make the joke that SGC is powered by “industrial strength lesbianism.” It’s hard to find a place when you feel like you are really truly excepted, and I found it here.
I cherish the ten minutes every Monday and Wednesday I get to talk to my friends in choir, girls I know I would have never met if it hadn’t been for SGC. I love that I can talk to them about anything, that I would trust them with my life, (wow that sounds dumb and hokey but it’s true). I love that they were the people I ran to when my first girlfriend broke my heart, I love that they are the friends I stay up late talking too, I love that we have bizarre inside-choir-jokes, and I love that when we all come together we make something that can only be described as excellence. In the high school world full of essays we halfheartedly write an hour before they are due excellence is something to cherish.
I don’t think I have to say how much I have learned in regards to music and music theory, I think it’s apparent when watching us perform. Let’s just say that I won’t be taking music theory 101 in college.
No, the most important things I’ve learned from this experience I learned from the other girls around me, and probably a bit from Jake too. To be in a choir you have to learn to really work together to make something beautiful, you cannot be half hardheartedly involved, you cannot try to be the “star” and force your voice to be heard. Those are harder lessons to learn than one might think.
If you are new to choir, I have one piece of advice for you: be yourself. I know that’s a corny, overused piece of advice, but it is the best one I have for you. SGC is one of the most accepting places I have found, and if it doesn’t seem that way to you, then you have to help make it that kind of place.
I have loved my time here, I would never have met my best friends, or traveled around the world if not for this choir, so all I really want to say is Thank You.
I came in to Seattle Girls’ choir in Allegra and from the get go I felt behind. Even as a young girl, I was hard on myself. I came in with no knowledge of solfege or theory. Sometimes in practice, I remember feeling like everyone was speaking a different language. Slowly, I started to pick up this new language. I learned what a time signature was and how to count a sixteenth note. I learned about counterpoint and practiced my dictation skills. Little by little, I began to understand and speak this musical language. I will always be unbelievably grateful for that. Seattle Girls’ choir has given me a way to communicate with fellow musicians at a greater depth and level of specificity than I ever could have done without my SGC education. It’s not only helped me understand music intellectually, but also spiritually. When I listen to music, I hear different things now. I can recognize the different layers and resolving chords that add to the overall message of the music I listen to. My SGC education has drastically altered the way I hear music. SGC has also given me life-long friends who share my love for music and so many memories throughout my eight years of membership. I also had the privilege of singing with some of my biggest musical mentors. Those older girls have moved on to bigger and better things, but I’ll never forget the impact they had on me as a younger member. SGC pushed me beyond anything I could have imagined for myself musically and has completely changed my relationship with music for the better. The most important thing SGC gave me was a place I could call home. I never felt afraid to be myself at rehearsal or at camp. SGC gave me a great musical education, but also a safe place to be me.