Share This Page

North Hills program helps fine-tune voices in changing times

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Shaun Cloonan, choral director for the North Hills School District, has loved singing all his life — except for the three years during junior high school when his voice began squeaking and cracking.

“I stopped singing altogether because my voice was changing, and I didn't know what to do with it,” he said.

While there are many opportunities for boys in senior high schools to perform at festivals, as well as middle school honors choirs and elementary song festivals, there aren't many opportunities that specifically address the needs of the most daunting of times in a singing boy's life — the voice change, which, according to Cloonan, can temporarily limit some boys' vocal range to a scant three or four notes.

The Mucho Macho Music Festival, sponsored by the American Choral Directors Association of Pennsylvania and held in the North Hills district, is one such opportunity. This year, its 10th, the festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at North Hills Middle School in Ross Township.

In previous years, the event has brought together as many as 125 male singers in grades six through nine from as far away as Mercer and Fayette counties to join in a day of music and confidence-building.

Nick Doyle, 17, of West View, remembers the challenges he encountered while his voice was changing during puberty.

“It was kind of a struggle sometimes,” the North Hills High School senior said. “Your voice cracks, and people laugh.”

He participated in the festival during his junior high years and continues to lend his assistance wherever needed.

“As a boy, you usually only sing in a coed chorus, but this music is for male parts only. It ranges from classical to comedy. It's an opportunity for guys to get out of their skin to sing and share their abilities with other guys who share the same interest and talent,” he said. “It's fun.”

The day will focus on the singing process, according to Cloonan, and the boys will work on four songs.

One, “Whistle, Maggie, Whistle,” is a comical love song involving a conversation between woman and her boyfriend, which allows boys to sing in the range of either a male or a female. Another selection, “Cover Me With the Night,” is full of West African rhythms and great harmonies, Cloonan said.

The event will conclude with an informal performance presented to participating directors and students' families at 3 p.m. in the school auditorium.

Ryan Beeken, director of choral studies at Indiana University of Pennsylania, will be the guest conductor.

“This event allows young men to experience a type of repertoire that they often are not able to experience in their home schools because they simply may not have the number of singers necessary,” said Beeken, 41, of Indiana, Pa. His own 18-year-old son, Ryan, recently sang his way to becoming a finalist on Fox's “The X Factor.”

Approximately 100 singers from 13 school districts will participate in the festival. Participants are selected by their choral directors.

“The overall goal is to give middle school boys an experience of good choral music in a safe environment that makes them feel confident,” said Cloonan, 35, of Churchill.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.