The commitment cuts their hour-long lunch break by half, but each day 120 students in grades 8-12—more than 40 percent of the Indian Springs School (ISS) student body—file into their Rehearsal Room or Concert Hall. Many are already fine singers; others simply love music and want to participate in the school’s most popular and longest-running (60+ years) extracurricular activity, the Concert Choir.
They enter quickly, ready for vocal warm-ups. Late arrivals are required to sing a short solo as a reminder of the importance of punctuality; it’s always received with a chorus of cheers. Attention then turns to performing — perhaps Gabriel Fauré’s lyrical Cantique de Jean Racine — as Choir Director Tim Thomas calls out instructions: “It’s quiet, but it needs to be substantial!” “Beautiful!” “Stop! That was better, but the phrase went flat.” “Remember, if you sing a sustained line, the rhythm will drag unless you’re careful.”
The Choir performs in 15-20 concerts each year, both in Birmingham and during an annual spring tour to cities such as New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Along with major classical works, they sing Broadway tunes, spirituals, pop hits, and traditional folk songs in up to 15 languages. A subset of the choir also tours internationally.
“They’re learning musicality along with skills and values — including teamwork, attentiveness, discipline, and respect — that lay the groundwork for happy and productive lives,” says ISS Director Gareth Vaughan. “It’s a great example of ‘learning through living,’ empowering our students to find their own voice while listening to the voices of those around them.”