Music to Our Ears
The Standley Lake High School Music Department comprises of three categories of performing arts: choir, orchestra, and band. Throughout the history of Standley Lake, the music program has developed significantly and has grown to include a variety of SLHS students.
All three programs include multiple different groups or ensembles that capitalize on various aspects of their program and each brings something unique to the SLHS community.
The choral program consists of five different groups, four of which— Treble Chorus, Instigators, Lyrics of The Lake, and Chambers— are classes that can be enrolled in. The fifth group, Standley Lake Singers, is the collection of all the ensembles.
The band and orchestra programs include seven groups and extend beyond the classroom into the marching band and pit orchestra. The seven groups include: Gator Blues, Signature Jazz, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Concert Orchestra, and Chamber Orchestra. Membership in each of the groups varies based on experience and the instrument an individual plays.
Within each department, there are a variety of opportunities that allow students to pursue more challenging music and the techniques associated with it.
As introductory level classes, Treble Chorus, Instigators, Concert Band, and Concert Orchestra are the building blocks of each of the programs. These classes expand on the basic skills students learn in earlier music classes. They target musical components such as sight reading and ear training, as well as the artistic aspects of performing.
The more advanced classes, Lyrics of the Lake, Chamber Singers, Wind Ensemble, Signature Jazz, and Chamber Orchestra all allow students to further their musical knowledge and understanding. Many of these classes are audition-only, furthering the amount of work expected of the student as well as the responsibility placed upon them.
The Music Department also provides students opportunities to be involved beyond the classroom. Marching Band and Percussion Ensemble are both traveling groups that compete across the state and capitalize on the performance and artistic aspects of music. The pit orchestra provides the instrumental soundtrack for the musical, helping to propel the story along and support the actors. Marching Band and Pit Orchestra aren’t classes that can be enrolled in, and are instead outside groups that students can participate in. Both still emphasize the same types of skills whilst adding another component of performance on top.
Band, orchestra and choir all culminate into the SLHS music department, with each contributing different and unique things to the community. All three offer students a place to grow and explore their musical interests and talent.
Looking towards the future of the music department, each teacher maintains a positive outlook and sees a multitude of opportunities of growth in the program.
Chatfield sees a heightening in the definition of community for the future of the programs.
“I see us taking on a more active role in our community off campus and fostering performing arts in our middle and elementary schools as well as continuing to reach out to our favorite nursing homes!”
For Duran, she has much more planned for the future of the program outside of Standley.
“World Domination! My goal is total takeover,” Duran said.
Following closely with the two, Williams sums up the future of the program.
“[I see] improvement upon improvement, and as Duran says World Domination. ..That’s something I can get behind.”
The music program at Standley Lake brings a sense of community to many SLHS gators, providing an expressive outlet and an environment to meet other students. Whether a student is involved in the program or not, every SLHS student is affected by the music program through its various performances and its aid with school endeavours outside the classroom. While many don’t know the intricacies of the music program, it is welcoming to all and works hard to improve the gator community, one performance at a time.
These programs are taught and directed by Cass Chatfield, Crissy Duran, and Ben Williams.
Duran, the band director, has been at Standley Lake for 6 years, but has been teaching for 13 years in total. To her, music is a way to get in tune with herself:
“Music is how I process thoughts and feelings, music is how I pray, music is as essential as air to breathe,” Duran said. ”Sometimes music is an escape from things I don’t want to deal with or a way to explore ideas and inspirations.”
Being in a band program gives people a place to feel like they belong and have a place no matter what the circumstances may be.
“There is so much to being in band, or any performance group. There’s instant friendship, access to a community that feels like a family and is welcoming. I also think one of the most powerful things about music is the fact that we talk about emotion frequently. I feel like so many parts of our lives expect us to hide feelings and not talk about them. Music is a safe space to have a conversation about feelings and explore them a little.”
Chatfield, the choral director, has been teaching at Standley Lake for 7 years, and 28 years overall. For her, music is the best way to create relationships with others.
“Music means connections. Whether you are a musician or not, people connect through music....Music is a powerful motivator. The most power[ful] connection, though, is between musicians. When I’m on stage and the music is right, there’s nothing better. We are connected, and not just in that moment. There’s nothing like being with people who love what you love.”
Chatfield is always looking for new voices to join the group and sees joining the choral program as one of the best ways to spend one’s time as a Gator.
“People should join choir because we create something bigger than ourselves, because we are standout community members at Standley Lake High School, because we challenge the status quo, because we live, laugh, cry, struggle, and achieve together in ways that you can only experience in something as deeply personal as singing. You should join because if you do, and you commit to yourself to give your best effort and to both yourself and the group, you won’t regret it. It has the potential to be one of the best ways you spend your time as a Gator.”
Williams, the orchestra director, has been teaching for a total of two years. To Williams, music is a form of weaving pathways between individuals:
“Music brings people together that otherwise would not be together, and it allows them to create something meaningful in a way that is very hard to find or replicate in other parts of society... It allows us to feel emotions that bond us together no matter where we are on a given day. Music meets us where we're at, and doesn’t ask for anything other than ourselves no matter who we are.”
By joining a music class, Williams believes that it is a way to form a deeper connection with other peer musicians.
“Being in any performing ensemble provides people with a place where they belong, and allows them to be who they are with no strings attached. You are accepted no matter your situation, and have the opportunity to speak freely about things that otherwise aren’t safe to speak about. These hard topics whether they are emotion or other things allow people to connect in a deeper more meaningful way.”