During the middle school trip week in late October, while Sahana Narayanan, grade 8, was visiting Washington, D.C., she received an exciting email from Dave Hart, the middle school instrumental music teacher. Hart was also away, participating in The Harker School’s teacher exchange program in Japan, but the news couldn’t wait. “Dear Sahana,” it read. “You have been accepted into the 2012 Western Division Junior High Girls Honor Choir! CONGRATULATIONS!”
His enthusiasm was well placed. The choir, part of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Western Conference, received auditions from up and down the West Coast, as well as from Arizona, Utah and Hawaii. According to Hart, “These conferences invite choral educators from around the West Coast to attend. Along with wonderful lectures and poster sessions, top educators are invited to work with [the honor choirs].” This year’s conference will be held in Reno, Nev., which means Narayanan will have the chance to work with a variety of excellent choral educators when she travels there in February.
Hart encouraged Narayanan, as well as other students in Vivace (a choir offered to grade 7-8 students by audition only), to audition for the honor choir. “To prepare for this audition, [Narayanan] asked for the guidance of Harker’s Jennifer Cowgill,” said Hart. Cowgill is a performing arts teacher at the lower and upper schools, and helped Narayanan put together what Hart called “a winning audition. She did a fantastic job working with her.” Hart says the audition process involved singing two scales to show the singers range and intonation. Then they were asked to sing one previously selected song (“My Country ‘Tis of Thee”), and one song of their choice.
“I was extremely lucky to have worked with Ms. Cowgill because this style of singing was relatively new to me,” said Narayanan. “She was so supportive and extremely helpful!”
Hart participated in choirs such as this one when he was in school, and found the experience very rewarding. “It is special when you get a chance to spend time with other people who have a similar passion for music. When I heard about the ACDA Western Division Junior High Honor Choir, I was excited to offer the opportunity to audition to the members of my choir. It didn’t surprise me that Sahana showed up to find out more. She has a great voice and she is quite a musician. Music just seems to hold a special place in her life.”
Narayanan feels similarly about the opportunity to spend time with other choral singers and educators. “Being around so many people who are extremely passionate about music is definitely something I’m excited about. I’m also honored to be representing Harker,” she said.
The audition process can be scary, and Hart acknowledged the bravery needed to participate. “You never know what will happen with these types of auditions. The hard part is putting yourself out there and giving yourself a chance to be selected. You have to be willing to fail [in order] to create new and wonderful opportunities for yourself. Sahana stepped up to this challenge, and great things happened for her.”
Narayanan viewed the chance to audition as something exciting and positive. “My decision to audition for the choir was partly motivated by having a fantastic time in Vivace,” she said. “Even though I was new to Harker, everyone was so supportive and encouraged me every step of the way. I was also driven to audition because this was a completely new and exciting realm of singing for me. For me, this is just the first step. Luckily, I get to pursue these opportunities throughout my time at Harker.”