The real March madness: how Shir Madness adjusts without the seniors
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As CESJDS’ a cappella group, Shir Madness, performed at the Shir On Shabbaton on March 13, something was not the same. While Shir Madness was taking the stage, most of its senior members were across the globe touring Israel.
On the annual Shir On Shabbaton, Shir Madness had planned to perform with other high school and college a cappella groups at the Beth Shalom congregation on Jan. 22 and 23. Due to the blizzard that weekend, the committee had to cancel the shabbaton.
Missing the shabbaton was something that the seniors were upset about, as it had been a great experience for them in the past.
“In the past, the shabbaton has been so much fun and an opportunity to bond with the leaving seniors, so I was sad to miss that,” alumnus Ellie Mendelson (‘16) said.
The seniors played an important role in the a cappella choir. The eight seniors made up a large portion of the choir, and their leaving was felt by all the remaining members. Ellie’s sister, freshman Dora Mendelson, felt the loss of the seniors on a more personal level, as Dora participated in the choir with her sister.
“It was much more fun because we got to go home together afterwards and talk about a cappella and practice together,” Dora said.
Dora felt more comfortable from the start of her a cappella career because of her sister and the familiar faces of her sister’s friends.
Ellie also showed Dora the ropes of singing a cappella. Ellie had been in Dora’s situation herself. Ellie was the younger sister as well. Like Dora, Ellie joined a capella because of the third, oldest sister, alumnus Claire Mendelson (‘14).
“It was fun for me to switch roles from being the sister brought in, to the sister bringing the other in,” Ellie said.
Ellie also enjoyed spending more time and bonding with Dora because of Shir Madness. Sharing another part of her life with her sister was an “exciting” experience for Ellie.
The seniors, however, impacted more than just their siblings and friends. Choir Director Susan Lisa Gvinter considers the seniors as role models to the rest of the choir.
“The school year starts and the seniors are such a presence that you almost forget that they are there for one final, quick semester,” Gvinter said.
According to Gvinter, when the seniors leave, the juniors have to step up as leaders in the group.
“It’s a dynamic shift, and the rising seniors now have to step into a new role,” Gvinter said.
Junior Emma Waldman has had to rise up to a new leadership role as the new conductor of the group. Emma’s brother, alumnus Miles Waldman (‘16), was the most recent conductor. Emma perceived it as if she was carrying on the “legacy.”
Emma felt that the community has helped her throughout the challenging transition.
“At first I was kind of stressful because I’m not experienced in conducting, but everyone is being really supportive,” Emma said.
It is the same community aspect of a capella recognized by Emma that encouraged Dora to join Shir Madness. The inclusivity and the fun atmosphere that the community sheds are what really drew her to join.
“You don’t have to worry if you mess up, or if you sing a note wrong, nobody really cares,” Dora said. “It’s a very safe place.”
According to Dora and Gvinter, the seniors received a gift before they left the rest of the choir. This year, the gift was a pair of boxer shorts that say “Acca-Seniors.”
“Usually it’s something they can bring with them to Israel and have a little bit of a cappella with them,” Gvinter said.
While the choir prepared to send the seniors off, the seniors also had to prepare themselves to end their journey in the a cappella group.
According to Ellie, singing with Shir Madness for the last time did not seem that different, until the end of the performance when she reflected on the experiences she has had these past four years.
“After we finished ‘True Colors’ it sunk in more,” Ellie said.