If you happen to be a rabid news junkie like yours truly, you’re likely to hear about the trials and tribulations affecting America’s public schools.
No doubt there are issues and problems galore, but I when I see a group of talented local high school vocalists and their coach producing 1,200-seat, sold-out, concerts of a cappella music year after year, I take notice and am heartened!
For the past 14 years, Napa High School’s Vocal Music Workshop — nicknamed “Vocal” — have been the “go to” musical ambassadors flaunting all that’s right in arts education. They sing their hearts out for local service clubs, senior centers and pre-concert opening acts. During lunch hours, they can be found visiting elementary schools inspiring young students’ future engagement in visual and performing arts.
In addition, Vocal works diligently throughout the school year for the “A Cappella Extravaganza” – producing, performing and hosting. The annual event takes place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19, at Lincoln Theater. The evening features a stellar line-up of three high school groups (including Vintage and American Canyon) as well as collegiate and professional ensembles. For tickets, visit lincolntheater.org or call the box office at 707-944-9900.
Landing a coveted spot in Vocal is no easy task. While there are more than 300 students in Napa High’s choral programs, only six females and six males are selected.
“The students are the top musicians in the choral program,” said Dave Ruane, Vocal’s director. “They must have good sight reading and musicianship skills. They must also be in good academic standing to audition and stay in the group.”
Junior Vivian Kammerer is new to Vocal this year, although she’s been singing in school choirs since entering Napa High.
“For auditions, we had to learn a piece that Dave had given us two weeks before and sing it with the group to see whose voices blend the best together,” said Kammerer. “After hearing various groups sing together, Dave begins the solo auditions in which we sing a song that we previously prepared solely for him. This was the most difficult part because every vocal tone and technique you use depends on your likelihood of making the group.”
“It was also intimidating for me to be singing in front of Dave because I didn’t know how much of a sweetheart he was. Back then, he was just the Vocal guy that plays piano for our choir concerts.”
In no small part, the survival and success of Vocal can be attributed to Ruane. Seven years ago, he was hired by the Napa High Choral Boosters as director and given marching orders to ensure the program remains self-sufficient. Moving the popular “Extravaganza” concert to the Lincoln Theater (from its former District Auditorium home), has paid off and provides the necessary funding to keep Vocal’s programs percolating.
Members practice about three hours each week, and more often during school breaks if new repertoire is in the mix. “Having a heavy course load and extra-curriculars can be a challenge sometimes,” Kammerer said. “But for me, singing in Vocal is a refreshing escape from the whirlwind of school. Creating a beautiful sound with great people is what I look forward to each week.”
“Preparing for our largest concert of the year has been very exciting. We have come with choreography and props that we will be using, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it will come together. It’s wonderful to share our music with the community!”