Catholic school, music conservatory team up to offer children’s choir

By Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass | March 1, 2017

St. Gregory School is home to Children’s Choir of Holy Family Conservatory

ST. NAZIANZ — At St. Gregory School, the halls are alive with the sound of music.

And that’s music to the ears of everyone involved.

Dawn Welling, a senior at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, who serves as director of the Children’s Choir of Holy Family Conservatory, plays the piano while leading students in song during a recent rehearsal at St. Gregory School in St. Nazianz. (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

St. Gregory, located in this rural Manitowoc County village, and Holy Family Conservatory of Music, based on the campus of Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, joined together this school year to offer the Children’s Choir of Holy Family Conservatory. The conservatory oversees the choir, while St. Gregory serves as the host.

After school on Wednesdays, from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m., students in grades three through eight gather in the cafeteria to rehearse with director Dawn Welling as their songs echo throughout the school’s hallways.

“I wouldn’t have an opportunity like this to sing and do what I love to do if I wasn’t in this choir,” St. Gregory student Miranda Schneider said before the choir began singing “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music.” “I’m happy that we have this choir.”

Magdalena Archuleta, a home school student from the area, echoed similar sentiments, saying, “I’ve always loved music and enjoyed singing.” She’s one of four Archuleta siblings in the choir.

The Children’s Choir of Holy Family Conservatory is open to boys and girls from any parochial, public or home school in grades three through eight. Currently, the choir includes eight St. Gregory students (Alayna Peterson, Kayla Peterson, Miranda Schneider, Mason Schneider, Andrick Lira, Derick Lira, Sawyer Pitz and Gretchen Augustine) and seven area home school students (Olivia Scheibl, Magdalena Archuleta, Diego Archuleta, Viviana Archuleta, Marina Archuleta, Anastasia Grajeda and Gianna Grajeda).

St. Gregory School students from St. Nazianz practice a song during a recent rehearsal at the Catholic school.  St. Gregory School students are part of the Children’s Choir of Holy Family Conservatory of Manitowoc. (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

Welling, the director, is a senior at Silver Lake College majoring in Choral and General Music Education. In addition to “So Long, Farewell,” the songs she selected for the choir (which serves as her internship) this semester include “Kalinka” (a Russian folk song), “Child of Tomorrow” (an inspirational piece) and “How Can I Keep from Singing?” (a Quaker song).

“I like that I get to know each student’s personality while diving deeper into why they like music so much,” Welling said. “It’s an interactive, relaxed, personable atmosphere.”

Welling plays piano and works closely with the students while offering helpful suggestions throughout rehearsals. She focuses on vocal range, tone, quality music literacy and performance skills. Welling is familiar with all of those attributes — she often is called upon to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” before the start of Silver Lake College’s athletic events.

St. Gregory principal Rita Steffen said she hears students singing and humming choir songs sometimes during the school day, so she knows it’s having a positive impact.

“I would love to see this choir continue next year,” Steffen said. “The students enjoy singing, and it’s also an opportunity to help spread the word about St. Gregory and build community connections.”

Sr. Carol Ann Gambsky of the Holy Family Conservatory of Music was equally enthusiastic about the choir. “Singing provides the opportunity for everyone to use the musical instrument that we all have — our voices,” she said. “They’re able to join others and make music in a great ensemble experience.”

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