CHS choir hits a low note as participation declines


CHS choral program pre-pandemic (shown above) had 122 members across three choirs.

CHS’ various departments for the arts have been recognized for their excellence across the state. But this year all art-classes are facing a severe lack of participation, in particular, choir. Though many programs were put on pause, the CHS choir program stood apart from the rest, performing all of its four concerts during the year virtually. However, the impact of quarantine was still devastating.
Before the pandemic, the CHS choir department had 122 members spread through the three different choirs: Concert, Chora Nova, and Chamber Singers. This year, enrollment has dropped to a staggering 82 people, forty less than before. In Concert Choir (the entry level choir) there are only 25 people. Chora Nova (the soprano and alto-only choir) only 20 students fill the available 37 seats. Only in Chamber Singers, CHS’s most advanced choir, is the participation unwavering at 35 members.
Last year, this decrease in numbers was expected, as many were uninterested in taking an extracurricular online. Many had negative feelings about Zoom activities replacing the real deal, in-person experiences. No one thought “YAY more ZOOM” as they skipped classes or sat through them brain dead, feeling unengaged by their teachers and the subject. So with expectations low for a virtual replacement, participation in the arts dropped greatly.
But after finally getting back on campus at the tail end of the school year there was hope for a brighter future. Knowing that his department was at risk, Choir Director Dr. Joel Wilson sent out his students to try to recruit anyone they could for the following year, but it was to no avail. The decrease between this year and the last has been attributed to a poor attendance at concerts by junior and Chamber Singers president Paige Ouellette.
“I think a lot of our recruitment comes from people being able to see our concerts and being able to see us perform live,” Ouellette said. “Being online kind of stopped that from happening and prevented more people from getting to know about the program. You really had to be involved in the program or know someone involved in the program to know what’s happening with choir. So a lot of recruitment was lost there.”
With few interested in joining, and people dropping choir, numbers decreased. For many a year online did not sell them on the idea of continuing with the program. For others, they lost their excitement for choir, experiencing COVID-19 apathy, a “meh i don’t need that in my life” attitude following them into this school year. Wilson witnessed this all first hand.
“There is a struggle to get excited about things in general. Things are so hard still and so people don’t realize that arts, and music in general feed the soul,” Wilson said. “They think it’s just a fluff thing that they don’t need in their lives and so they just cut it out. When really they don’t have that artistic outlet to feed their soul they don’t realize that their soul is hungering and they don’t realize what they are missing.”
But not all hope is lost. Wilson said that when he first came to CHS as the new choir director, there were only 60 students enrolled in the two choirs, Concert and Chambers, which since then has doubled, so he knows that the program has potential to bounce back.
Ouellette too expressed hope, saying that as live performances are made, interest will rise.
“I think people should join choir because even if you don’t know how to sing, it is a great place to learn and it is just such a great community,” Ouellette said. “You get to sing but you also get to make a lot of good memories and it is just such a cool experience.”
Choir at CHS is an unparalleled experience bringing joy to it’s singers and audience members every single year, making it a treasured part of the community which should be kept afloat. The program is welcoming to all regardless of experience level and is looking for more students! While schedules have been finalized for this semester, it is not too late to join choir this year. The CHS choir is a great place to gain vocal experience, express yourself, make friends and have fun, and is open to taking more students in the new semester. In time, CHS’ renowned arts programs will once again achieve excellence.