Voices of praise raised for choir instructor
The choral departments at Eudora High School and Eudora Middle School have a philosophy: more singers, more songs and more music in general.
Instructor Angela Yarnell has followed that philosophy note for note during her teaching career in the district.
"I'd say we've come a long way in the five years since we started," Yarnell said.
She has watched the two departments grow from about 45 students when she began in 2002 to more than 170 students at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year.
"I have the best job," Yarnell said. "I get to sing all day long."
Her work to expand the district's program and the subsequent honors earned by her ensembles earned Yarnell statewide attention. The Kansas Choral Directors Association named her Kansas Choir Young Director of the Year for 2007 during its annual meeting last summer.
Although she was recognized last summer, her proudest moments with the program came as result of her students.
In 2006 students traveled to San Antonio for a national convention where the ensembles earned prize after prize. The cantorei choir even earned the top overall prize at the gathering.
"I don't think I've ever seen the students so excited as they were when they were named overall outstanding high school choir," Yarnell said.
Yarnell's choir classes each follow a similar pattern.
She starts each class with some kind of physical activity to get her students warmed up. Next the student's begin to warm up their vocal chords with voice exercises and sight singing.
After leading her students in rhythm exercises, she begins the day's instruction.
Yarnell also has a pattern for the individual pieces she teaches her students.
First, she introduces them to a song and has them perfect the basic notes and rhythm. Then she works with them to develop what she calls a piece's musicality.
She puts effort into tailoring the collected choirs' pieces for the year.
"It's a careful balance."
She looks for pieces that people will recognize, but also focuses on historical periods and what helps her students grow.
Yarnell said her goal is to teach students both the basics of music and the basics of leadership.
"I firmly believe every student should be able to lead the class, not just a section leader," Yarnell said. "I think the mark of a good choir is how they perform without their leader."
With the semester just beginning, she's preparing her students for upcoming musical events.
The first performance at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at Eudora Middle School will feature both the middle school and high school departments. The choir also will perform at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 6 during opening ceremonies at the Eighth Street stage during the second day of the city's sesquicentennial celebration.
A combined masterworks event later in the year will feature a backing by a small orchestra of students.
"There will be some new dynamics I guess this year," she said.
Students in Yarnell's Cantorei class are quick to give answers when asked about her teaching style.
"She tells it like it is," senior Alex Ross said.
The choir class becomes the highlight of the day for senior Hailey Horan.
"She makes it fun, but you learn at the same time," Hailey said. "It's definitely the class I look forward to."
For senior Kim Scherman,Yarnell has helped her confidence.
"If Mrs. Yarnell says I can do it, I can do it," Kim said.