FHC musicians weigh in on the importance of music in their lives


When she was in second grade, senior Abby Stead had already developed a rare auditory phenomenon, allowing her to match and identify given musical notes. This sensation, known officially as perfect pitch, was the beginning of Abby’s infatuation with the world of music.

Abby’s dedication to music was unmatched by any other second grader, and she found herself unable to enjoy the elementary choir, so she quit, taking a four-year hiatus from the art. It wasn’t until middle school that she rejoined the music community through connecting with the sixth-grade choir, thus launching her prolonged career with FHC choir.

Since, her perfect pitch has only continued to develop and aid her. For the last half a decade, a constant in her life has been music, most notably through FHC choir and the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony Chorus, both of which are led by music director Sean Ivory.

“I think it’s interesting because choir is a thing that a lot of people are a part of,” Abby said. “It’s cool because Mr. Ivory is a really great director, and he’s also the director of the Symphony Youth Chorus. So, I spend a lot of time with him. I think the biggest thing people get out of it is that he’s just a really great director.”

While Ivory is the sole choir director, he leads the many choir classes offered by FHC, from chorus to chorale. Abby has found that each singer develops individualistic benefits from the activity. For her, it’s improved her self-confidence monumentally, transforming her as a person.

“Not everyone goes into choir because they love singing more than anything else,” Abby said. “A lot of these people do other things, like play sports, are involved in theater, or art. So you really meet a lot of people doing a lot of different things.”

Despite different initial musical educations, students in other music programs channel the same interest for music found within the choir as well. FHC’s infamously successful band is just one example of this convergence.

Sophomore Sukhpreet Singh, who has played the trombone since sixth grade, found a home within the band from the minute he walked through its doors. The band’s enthusiasm for music was immediately visible through their drive to achieve, and this ardor was immediately instilled into Sukhpreet.

“Music serves as a way to de-stress and put things into a smaller perspective,” Sukhpreet said. “It’s a language without words that brings peace to my mind. I can simply enjoy playing without having to worry about my other commitments, and I’ve loved every moment doing so.”

While the different sectors of band– from the drumline to jazz ensembles to marching band– are notably distinct, the overall program emphasizes a passion for music. Passionate upperclassmen bestow the drive for success down the ranks, perhaps the reason why so many freshmen continue band until their final year.

“The entire band community is very welcoming,” Sukhpreet said. “During my freshman year, I was accepted with open arms by my own section and the band. They helped me learn the ropes and inspired me to always go for it. I was able to make friends with people throughout all classes that I will never forget.”

While Sukhpreet participates in the Wind Ensemble and Abby is a member of Central Singers and Chorale, interestingly enough, the people involved in both groups are influential inspirations for them both.

Through examining their truths, a school-wide truth immediately becomes apparent: a passion for music is everywhere within FHC.

“I just met a lot of people with really different tastes and style,” Abby said. “It’s cool to live in a generation where music is the center of art and expression in every way. I’m exposed to new music; there’s classic chorale and traditional music in choir, but it’s interesting to translate that to other genres.”

And though there are fewer students and more muted, symphonic tones, behind the orchestra lies the same ideals as the choir and band. The violas, violins, cellos, and more that constitute the close-knit community that is orchestra succeed off of the varied, talented group of musicians.

Senior Katherine Bell participates in the orchestra, expanding her skills far past the class itself, such as in performance events like the Goodwillie Christmas Carol pit and the HOSA bake sale. From the beginning, Katherine’s six-year-long passion commenced with her eagerness for her beloved instrument.

“I started to play the cello because the instrument looked so complex, which I learned is true,” Katherine said. “Between moving fingers, the bow, and music, there is also a wider range of effects that can be done on a cello, which is why I ultimately chose the instrument in the first place.”

While the cello’s melodic, symphonic tones contrast greatly with the trombone’s blaring horns, Katherine’s notions surrounding music echo Sukhpreet’s completely. For both, music holds a widespread and profound impact on their lives.

“It is essentially another language that takes practice to become fluent in, and I find that very fascinating,” Katherine said. “Music means the world to me, to say the least. It has gotten me through both amazing and terrible times. It is something that I believe keeps us human and grounded.”

Though these musicians each occupy a different niche of the musical scale, the one constant between them all is a deep, shared passion for music. With passionate artists like them and more manning dozens of different instruments and voice ranges, it’s no wonder that our music programs are as successful as they are.

“[Music] is the center of everything for me,” Abby said. “It’s not always about lyrics; [it can be] more about the sound, and feeling, and reflection. I’ll always be doing something with music [because] I don’t think there are a lot of things that work my brain and my body so much as singing. I think it’s a really cool experience. It affects everything. When you sing, at least for me, my whole body feels good. I think that’s why I sing. And it’s like an endorphin rush, especially when you sing with other people. It’s a really exciting thing.”