An Inside Look: Marist Singers

I’ve always loved to sing. Whether or not I’m any good is up to debate, but the fact remains that I have a passion for making music with others. I was heavily involved with my high school’s music program, but didn’t expect this participation to carry over into the college sphere. After all, college is where we put aside our lifelong hobbies in favor of classically marketable skills, right? While this may be the general culture at most colleges, I’ve been happy to find an exception in Marist. Hobbies are encouraged here, not in the pursuit of absolute mastery, but in the pursuit of participation, improvement, and personal happiness.

What is Singers?

Marist’s choir, Singers, meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30-7:45 in the Fusco Recital Hall. We spend each semester working through repertoire that ranges from Queen to Schubert. In the process, we develop both as individuals and as a group.

Marist College does not have a music major, but does have extracurricular musical programs. At first, I mistakenly believed this meant music was not a passion at Marist. It actually indicates the opposite. It means every single one of us dedicates our time and effort to learn and create music, not for a course requirement, but for our own betterment. Everyone in the program has different life goals and aspirations, but comes together to create something beautiful. Students of Biology, Paralegal Studies, English, Business, Art History, Fashion Merchandising, and more all work together in harmony (literally.) We grow through our differences and are bonded by our similarities.

July 3, 2018 – The Marist Singers and World Choral Festival organizers at their celebratory dinner. Photo by Carlo de Jesus/Marist College

When I first started Singers as a freshman, I was undeniably nervous. I knew I could keep up with the music, but the social environment was a different story. What if they didn’t talk to me? What if they did talk to me? Oh God, what if they asked me to sing? It was my first college experience, and I desperately wanted it to go well. By the time choral director Sarah Williams got up to speak to us, I was deep in a spiral of hypotheticals.

Only she didn’t begin speaking. She took a long, deep breath. Then another. I saw others doing the same around me. Before I could wonder what was going on, I found myself breathing in time with them. My head cleared and the anxiety melted from me. This was my first lesson of what Singers really does. From 6:30 to 7:45 every Tuesday and Thursday, you leave your troubles at the door, and focus only on creation. It’s a space where by bettering yourself, you better others, and everyone is lifted higher because of it.

“Singers has taught me the importance of not only leaning into the music in front of you, but the people around you as well.”

Brandon Potenza ’20

The Singers Family

Now I recognize that Singers is much more than a collection of musicians– it’s a community of friends. Singers keeps track of every single member’s birthday so we can celebrate together. If you’re like me, you probably hate sitting awkwardly while everyone else (just as awkwardly) sings “Happy Birthday.” However, Singers goes hard. It’s impossible to not get in the spirit when the entire recital hall is smiling, laughing, and messing around with harmonies.

Singers even has its own niche memes. For the beginning of the semester, the men and women often begin rehearsal in separate rooms in order to work individually. This is usually announced by a board member with a “We Start Apart” Facebook post. And, like anything repeated enough times to a group of 20-somethings, it became a meme (as did the fateful day we finally started together.)

Singers’ resident meme connoisseur Matthew Spadaccini says “I think it speaks to how close we are that we enjoy sending memes to each other. It’s an environment where we’re having fun and making music. Not many things are better than that.”

More Ways to Get Involved

The wide variety of ways to get involved allows for each student to participate on a level that is best for them. For those who decide just two days a week isn’t enough, there are three a cappella groups on campus that welcome new members every year: Time Check, the all-male group, The Lovely Sirens, the all-female group, and Enharmonics, the gender inclusive group. These are student-run organizations that strive for community, cohesion, and excellence. Singers also provides avenues of contribution outside of singing itself with positions that utilize a variety of talents. For example, Victoria Schubert (’20) employs her Public Relations major by operating the choir’s PR Committee. She oversees raffles, ushering, and of course, the Instagram. James Erlanger (’21) is crew chief, and organizes– you guessed it– the crews! He directs the setup and takedown of each performance. Rachel Kane (’22) was the Student Director of 2019’s Night on Broadway, an annual Singers performance to benefit Equity Fights Aids. She was responsible for choreographing both group and solo numbers. These people are all integral parts of Singers and are widely recognized as so. A choir understands how each person is important and contributes to our collective success.

Student Testimonials

Of course, Spring semester always brings about sad seniors who have spent the past four years as a part of a passionate and tight-knit community. As I asked a few seniors to reflect on their time in Singers, many described their experience as that of a family.

May 25, 2019 – The 73rd Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony at Marist College. Photo by Carlo de Jesus/Marist College

President Thomas Vestuto (’20) says of his experience “I quickly found friends who became like family to me. To be able to share an incredible amount of time each week, creating memories through our mutual love of music, is something I value very much in my life.”

Justin Camero (’20), a member of Singers and Enharmonics, says “the most important thing I’ve learned is the true value of home and family. When it’s hard for your own family to accept every part of you, we choose those who will be there to pick up the pieces left behind. This is family. And Singers has every piece of me.”

Brandon Potenza (’20) says “[Singers] has taught me the importance of not only leaning into the music in front of you, but the people around you as well. It has given me moments that I will truly cherish forever and has brought me a level of happiness that words cannot describe.”

Singers has provided a chosen family for hundreds of students over the years. It finds a way to teach every member. I’ve learned that you cannot be passive; you need to be an active participant in your own life. A performance is good when you put everything you have into it. A course is valuable when you commit yourself to learning. A friendship is strong when you make an effort to know and be known by others. Things aren’t necessarily innately impactful; something is impactful because you make it so. Singers taught me to be the voice, not an echo.

About Marist

Located on the banks of the historic Hudson River and at its Florence, Italy branch campus, Marist College is a comprehensive, independent institution grounded in the liberal arts. Marist is consistently recognized for excellence by The Princeton Review (Colleges That Create Futures and The Best 384 Colleges), U.S. News & World Report (8th Best Regional University/North), Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (“Best College Values”), and others. Marist educates approximately 5,000 traditional-age undergraduate students and 1,400 adult and graduate students in 47 undergraduate majors and numerous graduate programs, including fully online MBA, MPA, MS, and MA degrees.

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