Positioned on the edge of the Minnesota River valley just about 1 hour from the South Dakota border to the west and 2 and a half hours straight east to Minneapolis, Montevideo is both quaint and scenic. Class sizes in the school district run about 110 students per grade level with Kindergarten and Early Childhood in one building, grades 1-3 in another building, 4-7 in a third building, and 8-12 at the high school complex. In grades K-3 general music is offered every day for 25 minutes and 4th grade has general music 50 minutes every other day for one trimester. 5th grade offers the first non-general music choir experience and all 5th graders do choir, together, three times per week for 20 minutes. 6th, 7th, and 8th grade mixed choirs have their own separate periods and are offered every other day for 45 minutes during the same period as band.
This allows students to easily be in band and choir without competition. A music course – band or choir or both – is required for all 6th and 7th graders but taking a music course is optional starting in 8th grade. The 5-8th grade choirs perform three concerts during the year. Students in the 5-8th grades are also offered the opportunity to be a part of an extra-curricular middle school musical every other year.
The 9-12th grade choral offerings include a 9-10th grade Soprano/Alto comprised Varsity Treble Choir and 11-12th grade Sopranos/Altos, as well as 9-12th Tenors/ Basses comprise our mixed Concert Choir. Both of these ensembles meet daily for 50 minutes. These ensembles perform four full concerts each year and are specially featured at several other community and school programs.
Each student in these ensembles is required to attend regular voice lessons where focus is placed on vocal development and personal voice discovery. These lessons are meant to give a true voice studio experience encompassing vocal exercises and exploration of solo vocal repertoire rather than just fine tuning choral pieces from class. Advanced Music Theory is also offered at the high school for all interested students. The year-long course explores aspects of ear training, dictation, and complex music theory in preparation for taking the AP Music Theory exam in May.
Varsity Treble Choir students also have the opportunity to audition to be part of a 9-12 voice treble ensemble called Fantasia which meets before school twice a week. This group performs and also takes the role of servers for our annual madrigal dinner in December and prepares a variety of chamber selections in the spring semester. Concert Choir members have the opportunity to audition for our 20 voice Madrigal/Jazz Choir. This ensemble meets two mornings each week before school and their fall semester work culminates with our annual madrigal dinner “The Chamberlain’s Feast”.
Chamberlain’s Feast Group Picture
The “Feast” is a long standing tradition which just enjoyed its 27th annual production this past December. Each year features different pieces from those used the year before as well as traditional music for featured points in the meal. The dinner script has expanded over time and is in the framework of a dialogue and performances intermixed using many of the typical elements one might have seen featured at Christmas and Twelfth Night banquets during the time of the renaissance. The Chamberlain and Chancellor (non-gender specific characters) propel the bulk of the dialogue in the script. We rotate through several scripts and each year’s performance is unique. One favorite feature of the Montevideo Chamberlain’s Feast is a new “mummers play” each year – very satirical and all in rhyme – written by Dan Hampton on some well-known storyline. Play themes have included Thor, Frozen, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars, to name a few.
Each year we try to make two new Renaissance-style outfits and we have accumulated quite a fine collection of costumes.
The “Feast” is a lot of fun and gives a wonderful opportunity for students to grow as independent a cappella ensemble singers.
After winter break the Madrigal Singers turn their focus to vocal jazz. Each student has their own microphone and they delve into 4 to 8-part jazz charts. This ensemble performs locally, at solo/ensemble festival, and at the closing concert of the year, but the highlight for everyone is our annual “Flood of Jazz” jazz show.
The Flood of Jazz features the middle school and two high school jazz bands as well as the Jazz Choir in a night club type atmosphere at a local performance venue. As a finale we bring the Jazz I instrumental ensemble and the Jazz Choir together for a big closing number.
There are several other extra-curricular opportunities for making music at the high school level. On alternating years from the middle school musical the 8-12th graders have the opportunity to be in a spring musical production and on the years between high school musicals the choir and band students have the chance to be a part of a performance tour during the first week following graduation.
Additionally, many high school vocalists volunteer each season to perform the National Anthem at sporting events and once each year all the choirs combine to perform at a game. Music students are also offered the option to participate in the Minnesota Music Listening Contest in January. Generally there are several teams preparing for this competition and in past years Montevideo teams have done quite well.
Montevideo students winning an award at the Minnesota Music Listening Contest.
Students can also opt to be a part of a summer voice lesson studio experience. Students participating in this program receive 30 minute lessons weekly – as our schedules allow – learning two vocal selections and exploring vocal potential through vocalises. The capstone of this program is a final vocal recital for family and friends.
Over the years the Montevideo Music Department has been recognized for its musical accomplishments on many occasions. In addition to regularly receiving high marks at large group festival, the Montevideo Concert Choir was selected as one of five choirs to perform as part of Concordia University’s Minnesota Choral Arts Finale in 2009. Also, the Montevideo music department as a whole was recognized with the Minnesota Music Educators Association Exemplary Music Program award in 1996.