By Elizabeth DiGennaro
From the annual musical to each chorus concert, no one can deny that Jamesville-DeWitt High School has an outstanding vocal music program. As a result, many students are familiar with “InAchord,” the top-notch select show choir. However, many do not know that its name has changed to “Spark.” Even fewer know why.
“This is my 19th year teaching at J-D, and our music department has an excellent reputation for a great musical, great show choir, and great choruses. But after a while, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted my students to be more than good performers,” says Beth Quackenbush, chorus teacher and Spark vocal music director. At the end of the 2012-13 school year, Mrs. Quackenbush’s goals were put into action. The group formerly known as “InAchord” was transformed into an inspiring character education group, renamed “Spark” after the ability of music to spark positivity in a person’s life. “When I first heard the name, I had my doubts, but now I love it! It has a great message, and it has really changed the music department,” says senior Maggie Austin.
In order for this transformation to take place, numerous changes were made to the group. “One of the most noticeable changes is that the group was cut to 24 people,” says Mrs. Quackenbush. This is only half of the 48 members in InAchord the year previously. “(Spark) is definitely less cliquey with the smaller size. We’re more of a family rather than many small groups,” says junior Hunter Siegel. “We’re smaller, closer, a little more relaxed and not as competitive,” agrees senior Allison Semmel. Spark has also designed a character education program which aims to teach values to younger students. “There are three main components of Spark- the Spark band, the show choir, and the Spark leadership. Our performances are character ed. performances, and this year we will perform at the three elementary schools and middle school,” says Mrs. Quackenbush. After their performance, Spark members, joined by student counselor Will Hartley, will talk to groups of students in their audience about both the themes in the song and about the students’ character. “As the years go on and we develop a good model, we hope to expand this to grade 9, then 10 through 12,” says Mrs. Quackenbush.
Spark members are overall very happy with these changes. “It made the group evolve into more of a community of singers and dancers,” says senior Libby Weber. “I was skeptical about the changes at first, but they really focused on how the group has changed. It’s a new beginning,” says Semmel. “It’s so much more positive, and we’ve created our own little family,” says Austin. These students also all appreciate the impact that Spark has made in their lives. “I love being able to get together with a group of accepting people,” says Siegel. “Now, Spark is truly a place where people can’t be judged, and can be themselves,” agrees Weber. “I love coming to Spark after a stressful school day, and just being able to sing and dance and not care about anything else for two hours,” says Semmel.
Want to see Spark for yourself? “There will be an upcoming Spark/Jazz cabaret night, where Spark sings eight songs with the Jazz Band,” says Mrs. Quackenbush. The jazz band will also play additional songs alone. This performance will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. Tickets will be available for pre-sale, and proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the upcoming band and chorus trip to Virginia Beach. So why not attend? Who knows what Spark will spark in you.