What’s recently happened?
Michigan City High School’s (MCHS) choral program had a busy past month. February was filled with hard work and preparation for the events that occurred within it and the events still to come.
On February 4, MCHS’s choir students competed at Indiana State School Music Association’s (ISSMA) district chorale and ensemble. Several students competed in the group one category, and those who received golds were able to move on to the next step.
February 18 was ISSMA solo and ensemble State competition, at which eight students from MCHS competed. Brooklynn Wade, a junior from MCHS, earned a gold rating for her solo. Makalinn Jenks, a senior from MCHS, earned a gold with distinction rating for her solo. Finally, an ensemble consisting of six students, ranging from freshmen to juniors, performed the song “Fire” by Mary Goetze and earned a gold with distinction rating and a perfect score.
“It was a great experience to see and listen to so many talented people, and the feeling of performing and getting the critique afterwards is one I won’t forget,” Hannah Parker, a member of the ensemble, said.
These events are often considered focal for choir students at MCHS, but they are far from the only activities and performances that students have been involved with. Earlier this year, students performed in a Premier Concert in October, a Veterans Day performance in November, Michigan City’s major Christmastime concert “One City One Sound” in early December, as well as several pep rallies where they sang the national anthem and two small performances for the Christmas season in the community.
Far from done, the program still has much planned for the upcoming months before the final bell of the year rings.
What’s coming up?
MCHS choir programs have a rigorous schedule of upcoming performances. Coming up on March 14 is the chorale program’s spring concert, which is entitled “Classics Night.” At the concert, students from a range of choirs will perform the classical pieces they have been working on since fall. Additionally, the pieces performed at this concert will later be performed at a much bigger venue.
On April 22, a selection of MCHS choirs will compete in the ISSMA Organizational Contest. The organizational contest is an important part of the year for choirs across Indiana; it is a chance for choirs to perform for feedback, as well as enhance their sight reading skills. It’s not an easy task, but students have been working hard to prepare for it for months, and can’t wait to show off their skills.
Near the end of the year, the choral program will offer two end-of-the-year concerts. The freshman and concert choirs will perform at “Pops Night” on May 2, and City Singers and Treble Chorale ensembles will perform at “Showcase” on May 19. Both concerts will involve performances of student-chosen pop and television-themed pieces as well as self-prepared solos and ensembles that were selected specially for the concert. The biggest part of these concerts, however, is the experimentation with music that is fundamental for them.
“You have to always be exploring with music because if you don’t, you’re not going to feel it as much,” Michelle Howisen, the school’s choral director, said.
MCHS’s chorale program has a long list of upcoming performances, so make sure you catch at least one and see the talented students that come from the program.
Howisen is the choral director at MCHS. She has been with the Michigan City Area Schools (MCAS) system for 10 years and has been teaching for 18. While she is generally known as the choir director, it should be known that this position requires much more than is typically acknowledged.
“I teach all of the high school level choirs. We have a freshman choir, a concert choir, which consists of students who are sophomores through seniors who are trying choir for the first time. We have a Treble Chorale, which is our advanced women's ensemble. We have the City Singers, which this year is all females, but normally, it’s a mixed advanced ensemble,” Howisen said.
These four different choir classes, however, do not completely summarize the work Howisen does for the MCAS choir programs.
“In the afternoons, I travel. I split my time between Krueger Middle School and Barker Middle School, teaching with the two choir directors from those middle schools so we can continue to develop our programs and the skills in our middle schools,” Howisen said.
Howisen has long been interested in music and teaching. The drive for an opportunity like her job at MCHS was rooted within her from a young age.
“When I was in elementary school, I was in a community choir called, ‘Southlake Children’s Choir.’ It was an auditioned choir for students in grades four through eight. I loved to sing so much, but I went to a parochial school, so I didn’t really have a choir program in my school. Then, my mom found this choir. I auditioned, and I got in. It became this huge part of my life where I learned about choir and singing,” Howisen said.
The special nature of this choir reached past the opportunities it offered for Howisen.
“The director was just amazing. After having her for five to six years, I just knew that I wanted to emulate her. I wanted to teach music. From eighth grade on, I knew I was going to be a choir teacher of some kind,” Howisen said.
Howisen firmly believes that music is an important part of our lives. While emotion is always a part of it, Howisen also firmly believes that there is logic behind musical involvement in our lives.
“Music is a subject that translates into multiple subjects. It translates into English because you sing a lot of different poetry and you have to be able analyze it and feel it. It translates into math because, well, music is math and math is music. We talk about pieces that we’re doing that have a lot of history behind it. It helps you with all your other subjects you’re studying in school,” Howisen said.
All the same, Howisen has always felt the emotion and passion that music carries. She preaches the power that it can hold to her students, driving each and every one of them to hold music in their lives and their hearts.
“Music is just a good way to express yourself. In a lot of your academic classes it's a lecture; then you do the assignment. In choir, it’s a little bit of a lecture, but mostly, the students take charge. You are responsible for being a part of a team and creating something. The creation process is the fun part of music,” Howisen said.
If there is no other reason to be involved in music, Howisen’s most basic answer is clear.
“It’s just fun, making something new with friends, and finding people who have like-minded interests so that you can create something that is absolutely beautiful, or emotional, or gut-wrenching, or scary. Music does all of that,” Howisen said.
Howisen is an accomplished woman outside of her career and classroom. One of her biggest prides is her family.
“On a weekend, when I’m not teaching, we do family shopping, we play games - it's about hanging out with family, with my three kids. After all, our lives are hectic,” Howisen said.
When finding her own time, outside her family and career, Howisen enjoys the many local music opportunities, as well as other, simple pleasures.
“I canter at my church, meaning I sing at the front of the congregation and lead the songs. I used to be involved in Northwest Indiana Theater. I also did the Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus. For now, it’s just singing in church, but I also enjoy teaching private voice lessons,” Howisen said.
Howisen is an accomplished teacher, performer, and mother, and her passion for music extends to her students in the MCHS choir program.
Parker is a sophomore at MCHS. She is a highly involved member of the community.
“I play volleyball for the school. I also do club volleyball for Dunes Volleyball. I do student council, helping hands, Japanese club, and a lot of church activities. I caddy for Long Beach Country Club. I’m the vice president of the sophomore steering committee,” Parker said.
Parker’s life experiences and community involvement have made it easy for her to discover the greater passions of her life.
“I’ve always been obsessed with the brain, neuroscience, and psychology. I’ve always leaned towards STEM subjects because they teach more about those things,” Parker said.
The discovery of these particular passions has led Parker to explore the possibilities for her future within related fields.
“Later in life I want to go into psychology. Neuroscience interests me, but I don’t think I’ll do a job in that field. I would rather do psychology and become a clinical psychologist to help people with different issues. I would study neuroscience for fun. Learning about neural pathways and chemical imbalances in your brain that make you think different ways is so amazing. The brain is just so intricate,” Parker said.
Parker has done her research into these potential pathways. She keeps an open mind when considering her options, seeing as she has time to think about them still, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a few ideas for college.
“I would like to go to Northwestern University. I’ve seen their campus, it’s a lovely campus, but they’re also a big research university. One thing I want to do is research in psychology. They have amazing research facilities, and their library is just amazing. Or, it’s a small school, but Wheaton College because of the campus life they have there. My sister also went there, so she would be an alum,” Parker said.
Parker is also a part of the school’s City Singers ensemble, and she recently earned a gold rating with distinction and perfect score for her participation in an ensemble performing the song, “Fire,” by Mary Goetze. She, alongside her classmates, is preparing for the upcoming, “Classics Night,” concert, as well as the ISSMA Organizational Contest.
“One of the songs I really like that we’re doing right now is, ‘Hold On.’ It has a great message. It’s a very dark piece. Even through these really hard times that people were going through that they talk about in, ‘Hold On,’ it talks about how you should keep pushing through. There’s so many times where you’re going to want to give up, but you shouldn’t. There’s more to life than what you’re going through right now, there’s always something else out there," Parker said.
Parker is a hard-working, brilliant student at MCHS who should definitely be watched in the upcoming years as she works to bring her dreams to fruition.