Sunset • It was a hot August day with little cool air to be found in the school when eighth- and ninth-grade students at Sunset Junior high gathered for a choir retreat. Choir director Melanie Wilcox promised the students that sunny adventures await them during the upcoming school year.
The retreat was planned by Melanie Wilcox with the help of student choir leaders. Wilcox gave the students a list of topics that needed to be covered and allowed them to choose how those topics would be incorporated through out the day.
The retreat's purpose was to give students the opportunity to get to know one another, sing, participate in team-building exercises, pass off tests, organize portfolios and start preparing costumes for the upcoming school year.
Cameron Jenson, an 8th grader and co-president for the seniors, said organizers spent four weeks planning the retreat.
"It's been fun because I know most of the people and I am comfortable talking to them," Cameron said. Like most of the other students, they love to meet up with old friends, but their favorite part is the singing.
Wilcox chose the choir leaders to help them gain more leadership skills.
"A lot of these kids were shy, but now they know how to start class, stand up in front of people and make decisions," said Wilcox. Some of the initial leaders did not meet expectations and were replaced before the school year began because they did not attend meetings or complete assignments.
The retreat included presentations by student choir members, which served several purposes including helping presenters feel comfortable speaking in front of large groups, a skill needed for future performances. Wilcox expects her students to be role models for the entire student body and to hold themselves to a higher standard.
"I want other students to look at the choir and be impressed," she said.
Kate Jeffrey knows first-hand how scary it is to get up in perform in front of a group.
"It's hard when you are not in your comfort zone," Kate said. This school year, students can expect to perform at elementary schools, nursing homes, the Weber State exchange, festivals and ball games.
Jodi Ealy, mother of eighth-grader Abigail, has seen growth in her daughter after participating in choir.
"It's given her more confidence. At the beginning of seventh grade, she was bashful, but by the end of the year, she had gained confidence and was comfortable performing with the group," said Ealy.
Eighth-grader Brennley Williams is in her first year of choir. She was thrilled when she made it through tryouts. She was in theater in seventh grade and can't wait to improve her singing skills.
"This is the beginning of choir! I'm so excited and happy to be here. I can't wait to go traveling and sing," she said.
Students do a lot of traveling as part of choir, and one of the topics focused on at the retreat was behavior on the road.
"We need to represent our school well when we our on tour. If one person has bad behavior, it reflects on all of us," said ninth-grader Kate Jeffrey.
Trevor Griffin reminded his classmates about the importance of kindness and speaking nicely to classmates, especially when performing in public.
Wilcox reminded students how important kindness is explaining that during and immediately after performances emotions are running high and feelings are tender.
"This is not a time for constructive criticism. Find something kind and honest to say or don't say anything, no negative comments!" said Wilcox.
Wilcox encouraged the kids to always take care of their voices.
"I need my voice to be OK, I need your voice to be OK," she said.