By Annette Aubinger
ASHWAUBENON – When starting 26 years ago as Ashwaubenon High School’s choir director, Teresa Schroepfer said there was only one choir.
Twenty-five years later, there are four choirs at AHS.
The first choir that Schroepfer added in 1993 was the Encore show choir or as she refers to it: the “performance choir.”
Celebrating its 25th year of performing in the community, Encore Show Choir has become a popular community entertainment venue.
Encore performs throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season as businesses, clubs, nursing homes etc. call in to request performances.
Within a three-week period this past December, Schroepfer explained that the choir performed 14 shows.
“While some of the performances also featured other choir members, our Encore kids were at every single concert.” said Schroepfer. “I am very proud of our Encore students. They are wonderful ambassadors for our high school and community.”
Schroepfer gave the example of when the choir performed at a local nursing home.
One of the residents explained that he had believed that teenagers in general were disrespectful, impolite and uncaring. After the show, the students greeted the residents, shook their hands and took the time to talk with them.
“These students changed my mind,” he told Schroepfer.
He gained a perspective on teenagers that day.
There are qualifications to become a show choir member.
Besides just being musically talented, a student has to be in one of the other choirs or bands during the school day.
Show choir practices outside of normal school hours, yet they earn one-half high school credit per year.
Auditions are held late in spring for the following year’s troupe.
Encore competes in solo and ensemble where they have consistently received first place medals at district and state festivals.
Most members of the Encore choir are also in the Concert Choir.
The Concert Choir (formerly Select Choir) is the top curricular choir – meaning that it is not merely taken for show; the students learn about music.
It is taught during the school day.
The other choirs are the Mixed Choir which is entry level and Treble Choir (an all-women’s group).
These total three choirs were added during Schroepfer’s tenure.
Students learn that singing involves the body, mind, spirit and voice when they take choir.
Those in daily choir learn music note reading, rhythms, theory, vocal technique, posture, breathing techniques, and applying text with correct accentuation.
Schroepfer said that beyond what the choirs learn about music in the classroom, there are a multitude of benefits.
They learn about the greater community; how everyone functions together, giving and receiving support when necessary.
The choir learns confidence focusing on preparation to express their musical ideas in front of live audiences.
The choir learns responsibility, practicing their own part, focusing during rehearsals, and doing what it takes topresent a good show.
They learn identity where they can freely express and be themselves.
They learn art, history and culture.
The repertoire sung by students opens doors to various cultures and historical events.
That’s why there are songs of many styles, eras and cultures studied over the course of the year.
Schroepfer said she is very proud of where the Ashwaubenon High School music programs have taken students.
About six to seven former students are active music teachers in the area with another four currently studying to become choir directors – possibly because of the choral program they experienced at Ashwaubenon.
Schroepfer knows of two students who have or are performing on cruise ships.
One student was working on stage in Chicago.
Another student worked at Disney.
Another teaches theater in Arizona.
Others are working in theaters behind the scenes.
Many students are church song leaders, sing in church choirs, and community groups.
“It is fun, gratifying, and often humbling to watch the kids get their start here.” Schroepfer said.
She noted that, every once in a while, she gets a message thanking her for what she taught the students.
They report being able to understand the music courses taught in college because they took choir.
One student specifically attributed her love of jazz to work done in choir.
At the end of the school year there will be a pops program where 25 years of music will be remembered and celebrated.
It will also be the end of 25 years at Ashwaubenon High School for Schroepfer.
She will be retiring in June.
Schroepfer said that if after her 25 years of teaching, the students come away with a deeper sense of their place in the world and an appreciation for music.
“That’s what it’s all about,” she said.