By Olivia Pitts

For me, singing in a choir has been a major outlet for stress relief, and has given me overall enjoyment and happiness for as long as I can remember. The harmonies and melodies of choral pieces make me squirm in my seat with excitement when I sing in a group of people that are just as influenced by music as I am. Although this has always been the case for me, it wasn’t until this year at Clarke County High School that I really began to understand just how much I love music and how overjoyed I am to continue to study it as a professional career; all thanks to our new director Dr. Ryan Keebaugh.

I’m seventeen and a junior at Clarke County High School. I’ve been singing my entire life, and I’ve participated in a choral group — at school or in a community choir — for 9 years now. Since moving to Clarke County High School in my seventh grade year, I’ve experienced three different choral directors: Joel Shapiro in middle school, Chamber Choir my freshman year with Dr. Janna Brendell, and now under the direction of Dr. Keebaugh.

Although I’ve had many memorable experiences with all three of these wonderful directors, I can easily say that Dr. Keebaugh has been the most influential adult figure and role model in my life. Dr. Keebaugh has served on the faculty of Clarke County Public Schools, Mary Baldwin University, Lord Fairfax Community College, and Eastern Mennonite University. He taught here in Clarke County six years ago, until moving to teach at Eastern Mennonite University’s (EMU) choral program. He is now currently teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade choirs at Johnson Williams Middle School, along with IB Music Theory and Composition and Concert and Chamber choirs at Clarke County High School.

If you were to ask any student or parent who has ever had an encounter with Dr. Keebaugh, I’m sure they would tell you that they love him to death. I believe that people love how he can go from teaching music to making jokes, all while still teaching lifelong skills. Dr. Keebaugh has taught our choir many important life lessons and musical skills so far, and we are only halfway through this school year!

I’ve grown so close to him as a person and as an influencer. I admire how important it is to him to get to know each one of his students and how he greets everyone he meets with open arms. He has his own system of teaching and working and I believe that it is really going to help our future choral program here in Clarke County. Every choir class with Dr. Keebaugh is a blast. We start off our day with a “daily pun” presented by one of the seniors in Chamber, Gabby Boukia. We then practice a warm up that we do every day. It starts with the days of the week: forwards, backwards, skipping, and then backwards skipping. Then we say the months in order: forwards and backwards. Finally, we say the planets in their order, ending with “and pluto… according to Dr. Keebaugh.”

After this ridiculously hard warm up, we dive our heads into our binders filled with music. Choir is such an easy class to allow ourselves to let back and just sing our hearts out. It’s really beautiful. The amount of talent we have in our county is very influential.

On February 22, our high school choirs are hosting our annual Cake Off. Essentially, the Cake Off is a Valentine’s Day-themed fundraiser filled with music, auction items, and lots of sweets!

It goes from 6:30 to 8:30 and is $10 for adults, $5 for kids and kids 5 and under get in for free. The Cake Off is always our biggest fundraiser of the year; we use most, if not all the money raised to help pay for our Spring trip.

Last year our Chamber Choir visited New York City for a weekend in April of 2019. We sang on the Radio City stage, experienced a Boadway workshop with a cast member from the Broadway musical Wicked, and you may have even seen us on the Today show. For our spring trip this year, we are hoping to be able to take a trip to Chicago in June of 2020.

We have many choral events coming up this year, including our Talent Show at CCHS on March 20 at 7pm, a performance at the Berryville Baptist Church on March 22nd at 3:00pm, and our spring concert at CCHS on May 7 at 7pm. We always love having a big audience, and would love to share our music with some new faces!