Just before winter break, William Monroe High School’s music department sent out a link to the virtual concert put on by the school’s choir and concert band. Due to the local rise in cases of COVID-19, director Nathan Whittaker felt a virtual concert would be the safest course of action. The performance is available at youtube.com/watch?v=UXf_QKlWjzQ.
“There were several factors that went into the decision to create a virtual concert this winter,” Whittaker said. “I wanted to reach a wider audience than we normally would with our traditional concerts. Also, we could add student interviews and perform somewhere besides the (Performing Arts Center). The new WMHS café seemed like the best place to record since it is brand new and sounds nice.”
The concert choir is made up of eight members: Gabby Arias, Gabriel Bailey, Cayley Evans, Skylar Fielding, Alyssa Johnson, Sarabeth Morris, Ava Reickart and Preston Thompkins. Under Whittaker’s lively direction, the group serenades their audience from the festively-decorated high school cafeteria with tunes including: “Keep Your Hand on That Plow” arranged by Cristi Cary Miller; “Pie Jesu” by Mary Lynn Lightfoot; and “Three Easy Carols” arranged by Catherine DeLanoy.
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In between the choir and band performances, Whittaker interviewed each of the three seniors from the two groups.
“I think what I like best about singing is definitely the sense of community,” said Gabe Bailey, who plans to run cross country and track for King University in Bristol, Tenn., next year. He also plans to continue singing in the university choir.
“I think it’s a good way to express yourself,” agreed fellow singer Preston Thompkins. “You don’t (have to) really hold yourself in as much; it’s a safe environment.”
Thompkins plans on making music professionally and has been producing for two years. “I’m gonna become an artist and see what I can do,” he said.
Shawna Nyabuto, senior tenor saxophonist in the concert band and drum major for the Marching Dragons this year, said her love of music goes back to her childhood.
“My parents got me a keyboard when I was 8—for Christmas—and I just got so obsessed with it,” she said. “So in fourth grade when they gave us a choice of joining band or orchestra … I had to.”
Nyabuto plans to transfer her credits to James Madison University, where she will enter as a junior with a major in psychology and a minor in music.
“For me, music is a place where you can just escape the world,” she said. “It gives me such a sense of relief and happiness.”
Joining Nyabuto in the concert band are: Kaia Morris on flute; Caroline Bruton on clarinet; Eisaiah Trusty on baritone saxophone; Jeffery Wallace on baritone; and percussionists Giavanna Brock, Jacob Dulin, Harrison Graham, Christin Hensley and Ja’dyn Loflin. The program includes “Such Small Things” by Nathan Daughtrey, “Cold Mountain Saga” by Larry Clark (featuring a recorder solo by Morris) and “Charlie Brown Christmas” by Vince Guaraldi, arranged by Paull Murtha. The final piece includes arrangements of “Linus and Lucy,” “O Tannenbaum,” the theme from the skating scene and “Christmas Time is Here.”
“I hope to go back to live concerts in the spring, but now seemed like a good time to do something different,” Whittaker said.
The music department is celebrating its 50th anniversary and has been fundraising all year to replace its 18-year-old marching band uniforms. According to their FansRaise site, the band has so far raised $9,045 of their $10,000 goal. To donate, send a check to the high school with “band uniforms” in the subject line or visit shorturl.at/otKP5.