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West Jordan Journal

Copper Hills madrigals win radio contest

Mar 06, 2019 12:31PM ● By Jet Burnham

The 2018-2019 Copper Hills High School Madrigals spread their music and their name to a wider audience. (Kent Shelton/Shelton Photo)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

For the last few years, Copper Hills High School Madrigals have been impressing audiences and consistently receiving superior ratings at state competitions. In December, they hit a new high note when they recorded a Christmas song that was aired on the radio.

“It was kind of magical to hear us all together on something we’d worked so hard on,” said Eleanor Smith, a junior in the Madrigals choir.

CHHS Madrigals were one of four high school chamber choirs invited to compete in Classical 89’s High School Choir Competition.

Each December, Eric Glissmeyer, station manager at Classical 89, invites high school choirs from across the Wasatch Front to record three songs in the studio. The best one is played for audiences at specific times during Christmas season programming.

Glissmeyer said the competition provides a unique opportunity for young singers to do something above just performing concerts for their school and parents.

“It’s a little higher stakes to be involved in a competition and provides a chance to be extra focused,” he said. 

CHHS choir director Marc Taylor said from the moment he announced the contest invitation to his students, they were dedicated to being professional.

“Knowing that this is so important to Mr. Taylor, I think all of us had much more of a drive to get our parts down and to practice on our own and to just keep the energy up,” said Smith.

Their hard work paid off. They won both the popular vote from radio listeners and the top score from judges with their acapella performance of “O Magnum Mysterium,” beating the choirs from Fremont High School, Provo High School, and Juan Diego Catholic High School. 

As winners, the Madrigals will be the featured local artists on Classic 89’s one-hour show, Highway 89.

“The kids have already proven that they can come up with a great product and perform really well, but the pressure’s on to do a full program,” said Taylor. “I think that sense of professionalism is going to be key in making sure that they’re successful in the radio show.”

This exposure to wider audience and gaining a reputation is all part of Taylor’s 10-year plan for the CHHS music program.

“Year four and five is for me to start to make Copper Hills known along the Wasatch Front as a school that has quality music programs,” said Taylor.

The unexpected radio exposure was a perfectly timed boost to Taylor’s plan, now in its fifth year.

“When I came on the scene here at CHHS, the program was suffering,” said Taylor, who picked up the program from a temporary director who had rescued the program when the previous director left mid-year. “I definitely had my work cut out for me in trying to shape the high school program the way it needed to be.” 

CHHS’s performing choirs now regularly receive superior ratings at state Festival competitions, which is how they caught the attention of Glissmeyer.

“I think it’s telling how far Mr. Taylor’s taken us that we’ve been able to get this far in just a few years,” said Savannah Hill, a senior. “He’s been able to take the choir program at Copper Hills and make it into an actual name—this is a high school choir who knows what they’re doing.” 

And it has boosted the students’ confidence.

“This experience that we had, singing on the radio station, it gets our name out there,” said senior Nathan Bendixsen. “We’re a force to be reckoned with. We are capable of doing hard things and performing hard pieces.”

Taylor’s plan, which culminates in “world domination,” was almost derailed last year by his wrestle with cancer. But despite chemo treatments and surgeries, Taylor continued to work with his students as often as possible. Students continued giving their best effort, inspired by their respect and love for Taylor. Last year’s student director, Shayla Jessup, wrote a song for Taylor, which choir students performed at the end-of-year concert as a surprise tribute to him.

“In spite of dealing with cancer and the health issues, we were able to keep the level of excellence where it needed to be,” said Taylor, who gives credit to the long-term sub, Krystal Gilbert, and support from students, parents and administration. 

Students credit last year’s trials for their ability to band together to face this year’s challenges.

“I think it’s just showing that we’re not going to let some stupid sickness kick our butts,” said senior Hailey Haymond. “We’re going to come up no matter what and show people who we are.”

The madrigals, made up of 28 students who had to pass an audition for a spot on the team, have become more unified through their experiences.

“It’s not just a school choir at this point—we’re a family,” said senior Ruth Ann Shelton.

Up next for the choir is a concert on March 13 as well as district Festival competitions later this spring. Taylor is preparing for the next step in his plan—showing off his choirs in front of his colleagues at the national conferences for music educators.

The Madrigals will be featured on the Highway 89 series sometime this spring. The program can be heard on 89.1 FM and Sirius XM 143 BYU Radio on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m.