Muscatine choir students receive singing masks

Muscatine High School choir students practicing in their singing masks.

MUSCATINE, Iowa–In August, Associate Director of Choral Activities Teale Burford put out a call to sewers throughout the community for help creating specialized singing masks for students to wear during choir rehearsals and concerts. In true Muscatine fashion, many responded, allowing Burford and the choir boosters to provide a singing mask for each student in junior high school and high school choir free of charge.

Burford shared that 20 community members volunteered to sew the masks, with some also helping to cut them out as well. Collectively, it took the sewers about a month to create the more than 400 masks needed, and for Burford to pretreat, wash, and label them for student use.

Students received their masks in September. As they began to use them, both Burford and Susan Clark Junior High School chorus teacher Nathan Swartzendruber have seen their students welcome them. “Our high schoolers . . . reacted very positively to the masks and are overall more comfortable singing, said Burford.

“We distributed masks just this week and students are asking if they can wear their Singers’ Mask even outside of choir!” observed Swartzendruber.

Students agreed with these thoughts. Senior Sasha Mattes, a member of Kantorei Choir shared, “I think the Singer’s Mask makes a difference because you can breathe better and you can actually hear yourself sing.”

Katharina Scholze, a junior also in Kantorei Choir elaborated: “You can hear your voice better–it’s not as muffled because of the way the mask sticks out. So, I think it’s really beneficial and I really like it, and I think it’s a really creative thing to do.”

Though the hard work of making the masks has finished, they will still require care and maintenance as the year goes on. Burford elaborated that to keep them clean, choir directors wash them after two student practices, which requires the purchase of a substantial amount of detergent. If nose pieces break, elastic wears out, or seams require fresh thread to resew them, the department must cover the cost of those materials as well.

Community members interested in supporting the choir’s mask repairs, as well as other choir activities, may do so by purchasing a $20 discount card from the Choir Boosters. Useable at multiple local businesses, Burford considers them a benefit both to the wider community and the choir program. “We strive to include locally-owned businesses on our card so that we actively support people spending their dollars in Muscatine,” adding, “our boosters rely solely on fundraisers for their budget, and because we lost the annual River City Showcase show choir competition last January due to weather and all of our fundraisers planned for the spring due to the pandemic, this fundraiser is critical.”

Burford also encourages community members to show students their support directly by tuning into this fall’s livestreamed junior high school and high school choir concerts. The Muscatine Community School District choir department will announce official dates, times, and broadcast information at a later date.