LOS ANGELES – The hundreds of high school students who normally take part in the LA Master Chorale’s High School Choir Festival will be missing the grandeur of Disney Hall this year. All involved, including Van Nuys High School student Tsing Miller, felt it was important to keep it going. So this year, the festival went virtual.
As it is for many of the students, choir has been a huge part of life for Tsing.
“It's how I made friends in high school and it became a huge passion,” Tsing said.
Since 1989, The LA Master Chorale, under the direction of Grant Gershon, carries a mission of empowering a diversity of young musicians from all over SoCal, and during this time of physical isolation, Tsing says the choir is a symbol of unity.
“To sing with other people, you're all depending on each other at every moment, and so to remember what that feels like is very nice,” explained Tsing.
And while students won't get the thrill of performing at Disney Hall this year, community is on everyone's mind and that's what the virtual festival will highlight.
Brianne Arevalo, the choir director at Van Nuys High School, said there has been much discussion about how to keep the school’s choirs going at a time when singing can be a potentially high-risk activity.
“I'm trying to game plan,” said Arevalo. “I've got my normal class of 55-60 students and we have to social distance. Where are we gonna rehearse?”
Although the school year is finished Arevalo makes sure to keep her kids engaged as much as is possible from a distance.
“They'll share cool things that they hear online, and I’ll share cool things that I think that would be great for them to know about,” said Arevalo. “Just staying connected as human beings is the main goal right now.”
And the students who know Arevalo, also know her motto:
“I always tell them, don't wait to be great,” she said.
Director of the Master Chorale’s education department, Lesili Beard, says it is times like these that drive home just how essential the arts are to our communities.
“I am so proud of these students,” said Beard. “Bringing the city together in a moment of unity after all this craziness, that is really what the gem of the LA Master Chorale is about.”
Although this year's virtual presentation will not have the full effect of hearing 1,000 young voices in one of L.A.'s most beautiful performance halls, Tsing said, during a pandemic and with widespread civil unrest, this virtual event gives Tsing hope.
“To have this other extension of the L.A. Master Chorale working, speaking to young people to show that we have voice and that we're meaning it, it's promising,” said Tsing.
And what better symbol of hope than young people coming together, putting aside differences to make a beautiful harmony.