United Through Music: Chamber Master Class Brings Students Together

Each year, chamber choir students from all twelve Howard County high schools gather to showcase the songs they’ve been working on for the choral assessments in March. The theatre is always packed with choir teachers, students, and guest speakers excited to listen, perform, and educate. 

Mr. Crouch, Wilde Lake choir director, has an inside perspective as to what goes into the master class. He has taken part in the festival since his first year at Wilde Lake, five years ago, and has noticed a shift in the atmosphere over the time he has been in the county.

 “The masterclass format has stayed the same, but the overall goal of it has shifted from competing with each other to being an educational and growth-based experience,” he explains.

The festival is held in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High school, with Mr. Crouch and his students ushering choirs around to keep the event organized and running on schedule.

The effort put into the masterclass is worth it, according to students and choir teachers alike. Angelo Harrington II, a senior at Reservoir High School, appreciates the opportunity to listen and learn from his peers. “It’s beneficial to hear the other choirs sing because you get exposed to more repertoire and different types of music,” he says. “You can see how the different choirs apply the skills they’ve learned in their class.”

The master class is also an important event for promoting the unity of schools in the county. For Chloe Angel, Wilde Lake choir president, one of the most impactful aspects of the festival is interacting with students who come from different school backgrounds.

“I learned that every choir is just like ours,” she says. “It can be really intimidating [at first], but when I lead the Glenelg Chamber Choir to their warm up, they were acting like teenagers just the same as us, and then killed it onstage.”

Ellie Johnson, a senior at Marriotts Ridge, also loved the opportunity to see other choirs’ points of view. “It’s important to get other people’s perspectives,” she explains, “It’s important to apply other schools’ corrections to our own pieces.”

Choir directors Dr. Greg Knauf and Katherine Geiger, from Reservoir High School and River Hill High School, agree that listening to other choirs and getting feedback is one of the most productive experiences for their students.

“It’s important for all aspects of the piece to be critiqued from more than one musician’s ears,” Ms. Geiger says. “Master class does this for us as we receive feedback from the clinician and from the other directors in the county.

“It’s easy sometimes in your own rehearsals to lose sight of some elements of making music, so when you hear other groups perform, it provides a good discussion of what our group can do better,” Dr. Knauf says.

The chamber singers master class took place on February 19th in the Jim Rouse Theatre, a full day of singing and learning throughout the county chamber choirs.