Making Choir Cool Again

Making Choir Cool Again

Choir just isn’t what it used to be.

What used to be a necessary part of music education, using centuries old music and little to no instruction, has now become exciting, educational and very cool, thanks to people like Argyle ISD Director of Choirs, Will Griswold.

“Singing has become part of mainstream popular culture with shows like Glee and Acapella groups like Pentatonix,” said Mr. Griswold. “It’s made singing in choirs more relevant and more attractive to kids.”

Mr. Griswold is only in his second year at Argyle, bringing to life a program that was simply a club until three years ago. When he first started at Argyle, he taught choir at the middle school and at the high school as his first and last classes. The rest of the day was spent teaching fourth grade. Principal Hill at the high school wanted to start a choir program and since his hiring, Mr. Griswold has grown from only 11 to over 100 students in 6th-12th grades plus 50 more in the 4th-5th grade choirs.

“We only had two of the eleven original students return the next year, so I started with a whole new group of students,” said Mr. Griswold. “We are truly starting this program from scratch.”

Community support for the choir has been overwhelming. The Fall Concert the first year was over in 30 minutes, jokes Mr. Griswold. This year, over 500 audience members were in attendance. Mr. Griswold himself said this task has been a big challenge, but he’s grateful to Mr. Hill, as well as the parents, for their support.

Argyle also has the support of Megan Lamb, teaching the 4th and 5th grade choir as well as Argyle High School Theatre Director Melissa Toomer and Argyle Middle School Theatre Director Jessica Reynolds. The theatre departments and the choir are working very closely together as Mr. Griswold now serves as music director for theatre musicals at the schools. In fact, the teachers encourage students to experience both choir and drama to get the most out of their programs. They also now have three grad students from UNT available to the students as voice teachers for private lessons.

In talking to the students involved, the word that kept coming up was “family”. It’s clear that these kids belong together and they’re in it together. A big part of choir, according to Mr. Griswold, is promoting a nurturing atmosphere where they can build confidence and do great things together. The students are taught to encourage one another and, for once, are asked to be louder in the classroom instead of quiet.

“The energy and teamwork that go into choir really pushes students but also encourages them to be comfortable in their own skin,” said Mr. Griswold. “Choir doesn’t pressure members to be this or that, it just inspires you to be the best version of yourself.”

While other established districts have a tradition of choir, Argyle has a mix of students, some from other districts that had choir, and some that are new to the whole experience. Over one third of the students weren’t even enrolled in Argyle last year, according to
Mr. Griswold.

In the future, Mr. Griswold would like to see Argyle grow a bigger middle school and high school program each with its own director, and varsity choirs as well as junior varsity choirs. Overall, however, his goal is for his students to get the most out of the program they are building.

“My goal isn’t to turn them all into choir directors, it’s to be better people,” said Mr. Griswold. “We all have a voice and we can use our voice to accomplish that goal.”

Remedy is the new Acapella group established by students under the direction of Mr. Griswold at AHS. Born in the tradition of Pitch Perfect, this tight-knit group meets at lunch during the week and for retreats, practicing their upbeat, energetic music for hours at a time. They have already qualified to compete in the Intercollegiate High School Acapella (ICHSA) competition in Deer Park in February and hope to then make it to Marcus High School for the semi-finals and eventually New York for the national finals.

Their December 19th Winter Concert at the AHS auditorium will be supported by Fuzzy’s, Bumbershoot and Earls all donating a portion of their proceeds sold that night to the choir program.

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