I quickly glanced out of the corners of my eyes and saw my friends hugging and falling to the riser steps to sit and weep; to sit and sing. Some continued standing and singing with all they had in themselves, and some couldn’t formulate the words to make a sound. Their reasons made sense to me. It was like everything we had worked on, the hours of rehearsal, the vocal warm-ups, each group memory–put together in one note. One perfectly harmonized moment. It was overwhelming and beautiful at the same time. The music came over me and it was the first time that I felt this changed by anything in my life.
Thinking back to my audition day for the Allegro Children’s Community Choir makes me laugh every time. I walked into the church in my green and pink camouflage pants, with my frizzy hair and glasses, with not a clue in the world as to what I was doing. I was just a sixth grader who loved to sing and thought this would be something new.
My mom was given paperwork and I was given a music theory test. I could name the notes pretty well and knew the majority of the symbols. I thought, “so far so good.” The doors in front of me flung open. “Holly?” a nice woman with short wavy brown hair asked, smiling. My mom wished me luck and told me I would do great. I walked over to the doors and timidly greeted her back. I wasn’t nervous, but shy. I hadn’t auditioned for anything before and I wasn’t entirely sure I knew how to.
She asked me about myself once we made our way to the piano. “Do you have any pets?” she asked. “I have four cats,” I said. “Okay, I want you to pretend you’re singing to one of your cats…,” she said. I laughed and proceeded to sing “Happy Birthday” to my cat Rosie. Then the National Anthem and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” I knew I had messed up more than once, but I kept going. At the end of my audition she walked me back to the doors, and my mom was waiting where we were sitting together before. As we got in the car I told her everything. How my voice cracked on “and the rocket’s red glare,” how I missed some of the notes, but did okay on the rest. She assured me that I probably did pretty well.
At the time, I didn’t know anything about Allegro. I didn’t know what kind of music they sang or what they were about. I just knew that 20 out of the 30 who auditioned were getting into Moto, the choir for my age division out of the three total choirs. I didn’t really expect that I would get in because I figured there were probably kids who were a lot better than I was. When I got my letter in the mail, a rush of excitement–mixed with a pinch of nausea–came over me. I was, to say the least, freaking out. I ran outside to open the letter.
I tore open the seal with my thumb and whipped the paper from its envelope. I made it.
I couldn’t believe I made it. I ran back inside and started jumping up and down with my mom. I had to call my best friend Lily to see if she made it too–and, sure enough, she did.
I couldn’t wait for rehearsals to start, but once they did I found myself wishing they would end. Rolling my eyes. Drifting off in thought, when I was supposed to be listening. Asking other girls what page we were on in the music. Not doing the crazy movements we were told to do to help us with breathing and phrasing. I sat in the back and went through the words singing softly, afraid of messing up. I did this the majority of my first year. I was that one girl who played with her dress, let her eyes wander, talked a lot in rehearsal and didn’t even know her part sometimes. The one who probably got on a lot of people’s nerves. Toward the end of that year, I got better about staying focused, but I still wasn’t fully engaged in what I was doing.
I really regret it. Because Allegro is now one of the very best parts of my life. I didn’t realize I was fortunate to have such amazing opportunities and privileges being a part of this choir. I didn’t realize that each experience meant something important and all that I could learn from the people around me and the music itself. I had no idea the impact that choir would have on me that first year, and if I could go back and tell myself to soak up every experience I had, treasure every song and remember every moment–I would.
Throughout my life, I’ve never been that confident. I’ve never really felt like I belonged anywhere. And I didn’t know a lot about myself until I was in Allegro, but I slowly found out through being a part of it. It’s a place where I can put all of my energy into something substantial and let go for a while. If I’m having a lousy Monday, it’s instantly better once I pull up to the large stone church where we practice every week. It’s better because it’s one night out of the week I am surrounded by people who all share the same passion for something–and that’s what Allegro is all about.
I can honestly say that I don’t think I would be the same person that I am right now without Allegro, because of the people that I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had. They’ve shaped me into a more confident, stronger and unique person. I often think if my elementary school choir teacher Dr. Broadie hadn’t told me about the auditions, I don’t know where I’d be spending my Monday nights. I thank her for that.
Allegro is composed of four different choirs: Poco, Vivo, Moto and Brio, each with their own age levels, Brio being the highest. What makes Allegro different than other choirs is that each one of us love what we’re singing about and I think it’s obvious when people watch us rehearse or perform. The best feeling is making an old woman’s day a little brighter or a busy mom’s day a little better because knowing that we have the power to do that makes me think differently about what I’m capable of.
I was in Moto for three years. My third year I tried out for Brio and was absolutely positive that I would make it. So sure, that I didn’t even doubt the possibility that I wouldn’t. Until I got the email that I would be remaining in Moto for another year. I scrolled to the bottom of the computer screen, reading the italic print. I had missed the theory test grade requirement by one percentage point. I was crushed because I had convinced myself I would make it. At first I thought it wasn’t fair. I couldn’t stop thinking about how hard I had worked and how much I was looking forward to being in the next level.
But once that year began, I decided it was best to just accept it and try even harder for the following year. When a lot of my friends moved up and I didn’t, it made me kind of sad but looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t make it the first time. It gave me something more to work for not to mention we sung one of my favorite pieces “Beneath the African Sky” that year; it made making it my second time worth something.
This is my fourth year in Allegro and my first in Brio. And I might still be that one kid in the back row who didn’t care if it wasn’t for the woman I first met with brown wavy hair and a grin at my first audition. Ms. Christy. She continues to be one of my biggest inspirations. She taught me that giving 100 percent isn’t good enough. She taught me to try. That pushing yourself is a good thing because not a lot of people will go so far. Most importantly, she’s taught me to be confident in whatever I do and to not give up. She once said in rehearsal, “How do you ever know what you have, if you don’t give it all you’ve got?”
That stuck with me. It made me think. Not only because I never really looked at anything that way, but because it changed the way I viewed trying. To me it was like, “How will you ever know what you can do if you don’t just go for it?” It made me want to go for it.
So, from Allegro, I won’t just take the memories of going on our annual tours or after rehearsal Taco Bell runs with Lily my first two years, performing in the Kauffman Center, singing at nursing homes, our Winter Blessing’s concerts, retreats or each Monday night rehearsal. I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned from my friends there, through my experiences, Ms. Christy–and remember them. Because they have not only shaped who I am, but also what I believe.
Our motto is changing lives through song…and before Allegro, I had no idea that it would change my own.