Four Susan Clark students to sing in Opus Honor Choir

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Some of the finest singers of the future have already started practicing as the junior high school students of today. To celebrate these aspiring musicians, the Iowa Music Association and The Iowa Choral Directors Association present the Opus Honor Choir each year, bringing together the best young performers similar to the All State Choir high school students sing in. This year, a record four Susan Clark Junior High School students, Garrick Fillmore, Ethan Viner, Finnegan White, and Jacob Whitworth, earned spots in Opus and look forward to letting their vocal talent shine in November, just before Thanksgiving.

Students who want to try out for Opus must complete a thorough audition, including singing a major scale, one verse from “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and one of the more challenging sections of one of the Opus song selections for the year. Once students learn they have earned a spot in the Opus choir corresponding to their age, they have approximately a month to work with their choir director to learn the five songs they will perform for the event.

The day of the festival, students travel to Iowa State University and spend the day practicing with a guest clinician, engaging in team building activities, touring the university’s campus, eating in the dining hall, and ending the day with a large joint choir concert featuring each Opus sub-choir. Additionally, select students, including Jacob, will have the opportunity to audition for a solo during the choir concert, which they will learn during the day’s practices.

A truly special experience for young singers, Susan Clark choir director Nathan Swartzendruber takes great pride in the four students’ achievements, the most that have ever made it into Opus in one year from the school in his teaching career. “I’m thrilled,” he said: I’m so excited for these guys. They’ll come back leaders in their choirs.”

Susan Clark Junior High School students Jacob Whitworth, Finnegan White, Garrick Fillmore, and Ethan Viner will perform in this year’s Opus Honors Choir. Photo courtesy Muscatine Community School District.

An unparalleled chance for these seventh and eighth grade musicians to hone their singing skills, Swartzendruber sees it as an opportunity for students to enjoy making music with other equally dedicated musicians. “Everyone who is there wants to be thee and has worked really hard to get there,” he emphasized.

Additionally, students also build strong bonds with each other and with their directors, making Opus Honor Choir an enjoyable and meaningful experience for all of them. “I get to know my students in a different way,” Swartzendruber shared. “Extracurriculars and fieldtrips are aways great ways to build the relationship.”

Though Muscatine Community School District currently starts having students audition for the Opus seventh and eighth grade treble and base choirs, they would like to send younger students to participate in the fifth and sixth grade choirs as well. Swartzendruber shared that Jefferson Elementary School music teacher Cole Flack has already started exploring ways to help prepare his students, and that he and others might start having upper elementary students audition in the next few years.

For now though, Swartzendruber encourages any young students who enjoy singing to develop their choral skills however they can and to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way in junior high school and high school. “Find opportunities to sing as a group, whether its at school, or in church, or just with friends,” he emphasized.

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