Behind the Sheet Music: Singing with New Providence’s Select & Jazz Choirs

Megan Barlow, contributor

A long time ago, before all of the bells and whistles, there were only two musical ensembles present within the walls of the New Providence High School. 

“Jazz Choir and Women’s Choir were the two Select Ensembles,” according to the new Department Head of Music, Ms. Kirkland. Later on, Tenor and Basses desired space for their own, resulting in the addition of Men’s Choir to the school repertoire, said Kirkland.

Kirkland said that because of the overwhelming “rehearsal and music” accompanying three separate ensembles, the Men’s and Women’s Choir were combined into the “mixed group” known today as Select Choir, to accompany the long-standing Jazz Choir at New Providence High School. 

In order for individuals to become members of these choirs, they must perform an audition, showcasing their “vocal technique and blending, [if] you are able to sing in-tune, and [your ability] to hold your part in a little bit more complex quintet setting,” according to the new Select & Jazz Choir Director, Ms. Crockett. 

She said the audition process consists of “vocal scales” and “performing an individual voice line” in accompaniment with the other voice parts. 

I remember the day of my audition like it was yesterday. Pacing outside the door, my heart was beating rapidly as my hands began to sweat. I clenched my sheet music just a little bit tighter, to the point it was beginning to crinkle, as I listened to the sounds of familiar faces surrounding me with positive encouragement. When my name was called, I timidly walked through the door to see Ms. Kirkland and Ms. Crockett ready for me. They double-checked my name, and then the music began to play, and I began to sing. 

According to Crockett, “the value in that shows we have students who are really committed, that practice and prepare for an audition, and can handle that higher-level repertoire that we do.” 

It is then, after the assessment of each individual auditioner, that the ensemble list is posted and rehearsals begin right away. 

Every Tuesday night is rehearsal night, averaging about an hour and a half per group, for three hours total.  Rehearsal usually starts with a warm-up in order to ready the voices and prepare for the vocal range required for each of the pieces. Then, after reviewing a piece together as an ensemble, “we often split into student-run sectionals,” according to Crockett, where each voice part (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass) gets some time for    “working on the parts, making sure everyone’s notes are together, making sure that the blending and sound is uniform in the individual sections.” 

Sectionals are “run by our fabulous section leaders,” whose responsibilities include “[knowing] the music really soundly… and kinda be[ing] someone that Ms. Crockett can lean on,” according to Select Choir President and Jazz Choir Alto Section Leader Leda Rossmann. 

Soprano 2 Section Leader Chloe Lemos agreed that this allows everyone within the voice part “to know the music,” and allows Section Leaders “to basically help where [we] can” in terms of learning the music. 

After working with primarily elementary school choirs, Crockett emphasized the importance of “these sectionals in the rehearsal” and how they “really do kind of create a camaraderie within the different voice sections.”

At the conclusion of Sectionals, the individual voice parts meet back in the Choir Room to bring their individual parts together into the ensemble. 

Spending almost three hours a week, plus concerts and outside events (such as Choralapolza, Senior Citizens Day, and the Tree-Lighting Ceremony), is bound to create some lasting memories. 

“The people play a big part,” according to the Soprano 1 Section Leader and Communications Manager for both Select & Jazz Choir, Kyra Trumbull. “[It’s] a really, really good community… It helps to make it a good time.” 

From the moment I walked into my first rehearsal, I knew that this group of people would be special. 

Rohan Gudwani, the Baritone and Bass Section Leader and Ensemble Manager: “Everyone in the group just really enjoys the music, and is really invested in it.  It is just a place where everyone can come together and enjoy the music together.” 

If I have learned anything from being a member of Select & Jazz Choir, it is that you will never find more passionate, devoted, open-hearted, and open-minded individuals to enjoy making music with, both inside and outside of New Providence High School. 

“It is such a happy environment to be in and I really feel like I belong there and I think everyone feels like they belong there because no one ever really feels excluded,” according to Rossmann.

It took me until my Senior Year to realize that Select & Jazz Choir was a place I needed to be. Every year when auditions rolled around, I always told myself there would be next year, but it is never too early to start making bonds with people that will become more than friends, but a family to you throughout your high school career. 

“Music brings us together in a way that’s different from other things,” and allows us to develop deeper connections between the songs and the people that we share them with, according to Ms. Kirkland. 

So, if you are thinking about auditioning, do it. 

Take it from Gudwani, “Don’t be afraid, as cheesy as that sounds,” because once you are able to put down that barrier, “you get to enjoy yourself in the music” surrounded and supported by people with the same passion for music, and compassion for others, as you do.