RHS Chorus’ “We Are” Receives Recognition at the 2020 NJSBA Virtual Workshop

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Madeline Keane, Entertainment Editor

As an active and enthusiastic member of the Ramsey High School choral program since my freshman year, I was devastated when the pandemic shut down our school and I was no longer able to sing in person with my friends. Chorus has always been a huge source of inspiration and comfort for me, and I was afraid that that would go away during the time when I knew I would need it the most. However, this was most certainly not the case: Mrs. Saltzman, as well as Mrs. Greenberg, our volunteer pianist, worked tirelessly to come up with innovative ways to keep chorus, which so many people call a second family, alive and well, despite the clear challenges that the current situation had presented.

Before the insanity of the coronavirus took over the year, we had been excitedly preparing for another great Spring Concert: rehearsals for our yearly men’s and women’s pieces were underway, and we had a lot of other fun arrangements that we were in the process of learning, but one song in particular had a very important meaning to all of us. Titled “We Are”, this is a piece that RHS Chorus had commissioned composer Rob Deitz, who has also worked with the internationally-acclaimed a cappella group Pentatonix, to create using words and phrases that the chorus’ own members had come up with to describe the sense of family and community that the group holds. The finished product contains lyrics such as, “Harmonious, we are a family”, “Together we are one”, and “We are home”, which truly captures the essence of what it means to be a part of RHS Chorus.

When the pandemic hit, the chorus family truly helped me, and I am sure many of my peers, stay positive and share special moments, even from a distance, through Zoom chorus retreats, virtual movie nights, and daily mental health check-ins from Mrs. Saltzman. We were getting through these months of isolation together, and performing “We Are” as a group in spite of the struggles that we would face in the process perfectly represented how important the meaning of the song was to all of us. Like many performances this past spring, we decided to go virtual with “We Are”: this meant lots of individual practice from home, a complicated and specific recording procedure, and many hours of work developing a gridded video by splicing together over 80 different audio and visual recordings. All of this hard work paid off when we premiered our video during Ramsey Music Week in June, as well as when the performance was chosen to be featured during a keynote speech as part of the New Jersey School Board Association’s Virtual Workshop in October of 2020.

According to Priscilla Smith, the Programs and Communications Manager for Arts Education New Jersey, “Arts Ed NJ and the [NJSBA] is committed to providing support and advocacy for our arts education community”. Furthermore, Smith states that “We Are” was chosen for the workshop because it, “truly showcased the talent, hard work, and perseverance of the students, teacher and support of the administration during the COVID pandemic.” The chorus is honored to receive such high recognition from the NJSBA and Arts Ed NJ, and is extremely thankful to be part of a district that is accepting, encouraging, and proud of the performing arts. Now more than ever, it is incredibly important for the arts community to continue to develop new methods for expressing creativity and sharing it with the world, and RHS Chorus’ “We Are” video not only presented the success of this, but also depicted the dedication and passion of Ramsey students not only for music, but for each other as well.