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Before and after Voice lessons

Chris is awesome. She just has a knack for teaching singing like I've never seen anywhere else, before or since. She could bring out both amazing solo and ensemble sounds from enthusiastic students, and most importantly, she knew how to make the program fun, and while most high school choirs were probably 80% female, she managed to recruit a lot of guys to join for a more balanced sound.

She grew the program in a matter of 5-6 years from about 60 members when she started, mostly women, to about 270 members when I was a student (I think eventually it peaked at around 320 or so), including a substantial proportion of males (maybe 40%?). To give you an idea, 320 students was almost 25% of the high school: my graduating class had something like 360-370 students. She had 4 curricular choirs (they met and rehearsed as a class period). There was intro level "Vocal Workshop", intermediate level "Concert Choir", and advanced level "West Singers", in addition to "Chansons", an all-women group because there were a few more girls than guys and there wasn't enough space in Concert Choir and West Singers. There were also 3 extracurricular groups: a co-ed group "Chamber Singers", an all-male a-cappella group "Men of Note", and an all-female a-cappella group "Fermata".

West Singers entered and won national competitions. Men of Note were on TV at some a-cappella competition. Chamber Singers were on Good Morning America, I believe - or maybe it was another morning show. When it came to New Jersey's All-State chorus, which is a selective "honors" chorus, most schools admitted about one singer into the program, and many schools admitted no one. Admission into All-State was by blind auditions (the judges had their backs to the auditioner and didn't know the name or school), and my high school admitted 27 one year when I was there. The next year, All-State tried to cap the number that could enter from any one school because of Chris's students (I think they were trying to cap it at 12 or so. Chris fought it - I don't remember what the outcome was).

Most schools had no students make it into All Eastern Chorus (an honor choir for singers from about 11 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states). One year, there were three students from my school. The previous year, there were 4-5 I think.

This video will be the best answer to your question: Watch this amazing video that gives a bit of glimpse as to how you take a bunch of kids who know nothing about singing and turn them into nationally competitive ensembles. First, keep in mind that these are a bunch of high school kids. You'll get what's happening if you listen to the "before and after" scales recorded in the beginning, middle and end of the year (these are the intro-level kids in their first year). Just watch the video all the way to the end. It'll blow your mind:

Here's what a friend wrote (who is now a professional opera singer) about Chris Bass:

Here's a piece I particularly like performed by West Singers (again, remember it's a bunch of high school kids):

Here's a piece of a completely different style. I tried to find a good version of this. This particular ensemble from whatever year this was recorded does a great job with it, and the recording is quite decent. If you could hear it all the way through, parts of it will literally give you chills down your spine (like that ending!!), even with mediocre speakers (and even more with good speakers/headphones or if you had been there live).

If you don't watch any of the other videos, listen to this piece!! ->

INTERESTING FACTS
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