Memories of a choir kid

For better or worse, the groups we fall into in high school can shape the rest of our lives. In the case of a lot of “music kids” that long-lasting influence is definitely for the better; and hundreds of former and current Parkersburg High School A Cappella Choir members will be celebrating that fact when they gather to perform in a couple of weeks as part of the PHS Centennial Choir.

Last week, I was part of a group that got to hear from the Smoot Theatre Boys Ensemble Barbershop Quartet, on stage, at the Smoot. The joy on those young men’s faces as they performed was infectious, and brought back fond memories of my own days in middle and high school choirs. When Smoot Artistic Director Felice Jorgeson started to ask members of the group “How many of you were in …,” I had my hand halfway up before she finished her sentence ” … the PHS A Capella Choir?”

Oh. Nevermind. I was at that other big high school, up the river.

But the impulse to identify as a choir kid (or a band kid, or a theater kid, etc.) never quite fades as much as it probably should.

I could probably still sing every note of the Alto I part for “Danny Boy,” because being part of the choir that was singing it on one night at the Georgian Center in Wheeling during my sophomore year in high school was one of the greatest musical experiences I’ve ever had. I still remember the look on our director’s face when we finished.

Those are the kinds of memories you can’t shake, and that make people jump at the chance to be part of something so special one more time. In the case of those who honed their skills, developed their love of music and the arts and got their first taste of performing, in high school, the ability to jump at such opportunities when they come around can last a lifetime.

When the PHS Centennial Choir, under the direction of Jean Singer, Cathy Martin and Pamela McClain, performs at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29 in the PHS Fieldhouse, there will likely be several parents singing with their children, and maybe even a few grandparents and grandchildren. It is far less likely there would be many grandfathers (much as they might like to) lining up to play alongside their grandsons if a Centennial Football Team had been formed.

But when Singer spoke to the newspaper earlier this summer about the formation of an alumni choir, she said she was being overwhelmed with responses because “The kids want to be a part of the Parkersburg High School Centennial A Cappella presentation.”

Think of the age-range of people who get to be “kids” again because of their association with a high school choir that has been around since 1931.

Forgive me getting on my soap box for just a moment, but THESE are the kinds of things that make arts education in our public schools so important. It gives students the chance to learn and create; to perform; to develop skills and broaden their horizons in a way that touches the rest of their lives.

If you do not believe how precious — how essential — that is, go see the PHS Centennial Choir Aug. 29.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at