Special feature

Women's 2012 Honor Choir singer, Christie Kirkpatrick, compares expectations with reality of her experience
by Christie Kirkpatrick, Mark Morris High School, Longview, Washington

When I arrived in Seattle on a dark, rainy and windy Thursday to participate in the 2012 ACDA Women's Honor Choir, I thought I had everything figured out.  Having had months to anticipate and prepare, I had already played how I thought things would go over and over in my head. 

My roommates and I would immediately become great friends, and would all be so similar in thought and interests. 

Rehearsals would be nothing but fun, and we really wouldn’t have to work that hard. After all, I would be singing with some of the best high school vocalists in the Northwest. 

Lastly, the performance would sound amazing.  I imagined myself leaving musically stimulated and satisfied.  But by the time I got in my car the following Sunday to sidebarreturn home, many of my expectations had been contradicted. In the end, little went as I had imagined, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.

Right off the bat, my first preconceived notion was struck down.  I rode the elevator to the 14th floor of the Renaissance Hotel and was greeted by two bubbly brunettes, Katie and Courtney, from a small town in Montana.  But the third, and coincidentally, my bedmate, was nowhere to be found.  The time came to go to our first rehearsal, and there was still no sign of her.  I looked everywhere for a girl named Hannah, with whom I would soon be sharing a cozy double bed, but was unsuccessful.  After a long day of exploring the city, getting settled into a new environment, and meeting tons of new people, I returned to my hotel room.  I climbed into bed, exhausted, and fell asleep wondering when exactly my phantom roommate would show up.

I was awakened by a loud rumble and rolled over to look at the clock.  It was 3:00 a.m.  Remembering that I had gone to bed alone, I turned back around to check the other side of the bed.  Sure enough, there was Hannah, sound asleep.  Great.  She snores. 

Before long, Hannah was sprawled out diagonally across the bed with all of the blankets wrapped around her.  Freezing, annoyed, and uncomfortably claustrophobic, I could only think one thing---  You have got to be kidding me! 

Finally, Katie’s alarm buzzed to end my discomfort.  Hannah and I sat up, took one look at each other, and exploded into laughter.  We introduced ourselves and shared a little bit about our backgrounds.  Any awkwardness that may have existed dissolved into thin air.  While we had some similarities, Hannah and I found we were quite different.  She spends most of her time in music and theater, and I spend mine on the basketball court or on the soccer field.  While she loves tea, I am a coffee fanatic.  Her style is vintage with British characteristics (her sister lives in England), while I dress more like a peppy blonde.  Our differences were what helped create our bond; we found each other interesting.

Equally as unexpected as my acquaintance with Hannah, rehearsals were intense.  Even at the beginning, this was without a doubt the most talented group in which I had ever sung.  Sopranos soared above the staff with ease and altos dropped below with strength and precision. 

The first time we opened our mouths together in Plymouth Congregational and the sound of our voices rang off the walls, I was completely satisfied; but Dr. Giselle Wyers, our maternal fearless leader, was not.  Her expectations were beyond what I could imagine.  She picked out minute details that I would never have been able to identify.  Sweetly and politely, but assertively, she demanded more, because she knew we could deliver.  christie-w-Wyers

We spent hours working on everything from tedious intervals to stylistic techniques like flicking, slashing, and gliding.  Despite long hours, we were given 100% of her energy at all time as she taught us to work towards levels beyond what we thought we could achieve.  Under Dr. Wyers’ direction, we grew not only as musicians, but as young women.

In between rehearsals, we rejuvenated by exploring the urban streets of Seattle, sampling delicious food, and just getting to know each other.  My roommates introduced me to their friends who were also part of the men’s and women’s choirs, and we spent hours sharing our backgrounds, likes, and dislikes. 

By the time we boarded the Argosy Cruise on Friday night, none of us had any trouble making fools out of ourselves on the dance floor.  We all had huge smiles on our faces as we jumped up and down, singing pop songs at the top of our lungs.   (Our choral directors would have cringed.)  It was fun to be given a chance to enjoy each other not only as musicians, but as people.

By the time we made the final uphill trek to First Presbyterian Church for our Sunday performance, we were all exhausted.  Nevertheless, there was an undeniable sense of anticipation and excitement as we waited to take the stage.  We were argosyconfident in the work we had done, and couldn’t wait to share it with the ones we loved. 

After a final thank you and farewell from Dr. Wyers, we entered into the sanctuary with our heads held higher than ever before.  The next few minutes we spent together would be the culmination of an experience we would never forget. (See honor choir photos...>) 

When we finished our final number, I broke into an amplified version of the smile that I can never contain after a performance.  The music was, as all expected it to be, absolutely gorgeous.  But there was even more to it.  Somehow, over 150 teenage girls from diverse families, backgrounds, and lifestyles, were momentarily unified.  For that one period of time, our differences were irrelevant as we shared our common love of music as one.  It was the most incredible music experience I have ever had.  I don’t often get to be a part of a group that brings my director to tears (both Dr. Wyers and Mr. Mitchell, my high school director)! Most of all, we reminded everyone in attendance - directors, performers, or family supporters - why it is we do what we do.

As I find myself in a significant transition from high school to college and from adolescence to adulthood, I will carry this experience with me, along with the life lessons it provided. 

Prior to this year, my world primarily existed within the confines of Longview, Washington.  I’ve grown up going to school with the same people and doing the same things my entire life.  I’m quite comfortable with who I am and what I do in my hometown.  All of that is about to change. 

When September comes and I make the six hour drive to Spokane to move into my dorm room at Whitworth University, everything I know will be left behind.  I’ll know very little about anyone, and they won’t knowrehearsing much more about me. 

However, by continuing my studies in vocal music I am comforted, remembering that the unifying power of music exists everywhere.  Whether you’re a peppy athlete from Washington, or an artsy musical theater performer from Montana, all differences become insignificant the instant the first pitch is created.

Christie is the daughter of Dr. Rich and Susie Kirkpatrick of Longview. Rich is a physician in private practice. Christie's mother, Susie, is a soprano who began her singing in her high school days under the direction of Paul Dennis. She sang at UPS in the Adelphians. She continues to sing in a local community group, The Columbian Choral Ensemble, under the direction of Alison Askeland and Brian Mitchell. She also heads the local community concert association. The Kirkpatricks are huge supporters of the arts in the schools and in the community.