100-Plus Sixth-Graders Discover their Voices through Lakota Honor Choir
What do you get when you put more than 100 sixth-graders from eight different Lakota schools on stage to sing together after just a single day of rehearsal?
"They sounded amazing," said Hopewell Junior School choir director Jennifer Akers, who worked alongside her junior school counterparts to revive the “WE are Lakota Honor Choir” this year. Akers, Kathryn Eroskey from Liberty, Jennifer Dietsch from Ridge, and Nicole Fink from Plains were impressed by the results and look forward to expanding the opportunity to even more students.
"We were incredibly impressed with how much ground we were able to cover," Akers said. "Besides learning the songs, we were able to reinforce singing and music skills our elementary school music specialists don’t have the time to reinforce in their current schedules."
“So many kids have never had an opportunity to sing or perform as a group. This is one way to get them comfortable with their voices and begin developing those skills,” continued Akers of her motivation to start the tradition several years ago before a short hiatus following Covid.
“There’s a big misbelief that singing is all talent. It has to be taught and learned like anything else,” she continued.
The teaching quad was eager to restart the tradition this year and meet some of their potential future students in the process, too. Although the opportunity was open to any interested sixth-grader, the group challenged staff at all eight feeder elementary schools to recruit at least 10 students from each building.
The result was a very diverse group of students singing from the risers in Plains Junior’s gymnasium the evening of Jan. 26. For example, Emma Eddy from Independence brought the experience of three musicals, while Roman Bronson from Endeavor has always enjoyed singing and playing the piano, but never performed with a large group. Union’s Dwayne Mosley used the opportunity to help him decide between band and choir as his music elective for seventh grade.
To appeal to the range of experiences before them, the choir directors used a variety of fun games and exercises. Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., students discovered their vocal range, learned breathing techniques and the importance of melodies versus harmonies, and of course, practiced several musical selections for their big debut that night. Most importantly, they gained confidence in expressing themselves.
“Singing is putting it all out there,” Akers said. “You can’t hide behind a team or your artwork, for example. You have to really own your voice and that’s a big step for kids.”
- performing arts