By Maisie Samuels ’23
If the walls of TPACC could talk, they would sing. Magic is an understatement of what takes place during A block this year. Mr. Castonguay has managed to create an environment that is not only enchanting but is a place where everyone can feel comfortable and confident. It’s a positive area where everyone wants the person next to them to succeed.
The chorus this year is one of the biggest so far, allowing it to produce an SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) sound. This is a key factor, as it enables them to sing with four-part harmony. As Mr. Castonguay said, “SATB makes up the characteristics of a chorus. It’s fun and although it may be challenging, doing it correctly sounds beautiful.” The chorus includes a range of singers from some who have never been in a chorus to fourth-year seniors who have been a part of the Gunn Vocal Ensemble their whole high school life. Being only a month into this year, it is already clear how much of a talented group of people have been brought together by their passion for singing. Mr. Castonguay also said that “I believe there is strength in numbers. This year we have a healthy number of people in each of our sections including section leaders to delegate and guide our chorus.”
Classes start off with students placing their phones in the plastic phone holder by the door, creating full focused energy. Of course, warmups are critical within a choir, and they are never skipped. Opening up with a number of different vocal exercises to prepare students for the work ahead is an effortless and relaxing way to loosen up their voices. Mr. Castonguay has deep reasoning behind all of his activities. He stated that “From the beginning of my music education career I recognized that one of the biggest deficiencies that young musicians had was not knowing how to read music. I created a rhythmic sight-reading method that works for string, band and vocal ensembles.” This method includes rhythmic and melodic sight-reading, which are the two major components of all music. The main system used for learning songs in Vocal Ensemble is splitting into sections (SATB) and working with your group to assist and encourage each member until everyone is secure. Ideally, joining back together as a whole chorus, everyone should all know their parts and be able to stick to them regardless of what the people surrounding them are singing.
This amazing group has so many exciting events coming up this year including a performance at Universal Studios, Orlando. They will be traveling 17 hours on a bus there and back and staying for three to four days in Orlando. Having opportunities like this is not only once-in-a-lifetime but it brings the music department students closer together, which creates stronger bonds between them and can only positively impact their sound.