AMIS MS Honor Choir 2019
Growing up with music, there were a few events I always looked forward to. These had to do with music mostly in my remote Northern California town. Once a year we would gather schools together for an Honor Band from around the region where the best of the best joined forces to make music. The pinnacle of this was the regional and state honor groups for which you had to audition. The competition was always fierce, but just getting the chance to play in them was indeed a great honor.
XLIS is a member of the international equivalent of an organization that organizes and promotes large scale music events around the world. This organization is called the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS) and has produced opportunities for the best musicians in international schools to come together and make music for about 30 years. This year, 4 members of the XLIS middle school choir attended the AMIS Asian Middle School Honor Choir in Mumbai, India. The festival was hosted by the American School in Bombay and the concert was produced at a nearby theater. The entire school community opened up to students from around the world to use the school for rehearsals and activities. The homes of the ASB parents were also opened for student homestays. The demand to attend this festival was so large that AMIS had to actually turn schools away. We were fortunate enough to be selected to attend.
Students participating in AMIS festivals receive their music beforehand so they can learn it in advance. We spent 4 or 5 ECA sessions listening, pronouncing, clapping and singing the words for these songs. Among the languages used in the lyrics for this festival were Hindi, German, Latin, Spanish, Arabic and of course, English. Students had to learn their music in advance so the directors could work on putting it all together.
We left XLIS on Tuesday. Attendees were Mr. Jefferson, Mrs. Lasater, Yi Le He, Zi Le Xun, Xi Yue Ma, and Sarah Lasater. The real fun began on Thursday, the first day of the festival. We were greeted at the gates of ASB with flowers, music, and dance to invoke the blessing of Ganesha, the Hindu god, and patron of the arts. Students from each school took turns lighting the Diya, a special lamp to commemorate the occasion. Finally, the boys and girls separated for their respective choral groups and the rehearsals began. Mr. Jefferson was fortunate to be selected to lead the baritone section for the boy’s choir. In addition, Mr. Jefferson had to learn a special saxophone solo for the girls' choir.
Speaking of solos, the competition was quite difficult for the various vocal solos to be given out. Getting up in front of people and singing by yourself is hard when you are 11-13 years old. I am proud that Sarah Lasater showed great resilience and courage to audition for EVERY solo. Though she did not get selected, she learned the value of getting up after being knocked down. After the first day, we returned to our hotel and took the students to a nice Indian restaurant as a thank you for their hard work. This experience was a new one for our students. Sampling and eating new cuisine was something all students did. Living in a different culture and eating its food is one of the many challenges faced by our students.
The second day was pretty much the same as the first with long rehearsals, sectionals, and preparation for the concert on the third day. The hard work was worth it however, because at the end of the second day, we celebrated Holi, the Hindu festival of spring. Though Holi had actually passed the week before, we celebrated it anyway. Holi is a festival of color and food. Participants take colored corn starch and throw it on each other for fun. Our experience on the ASB tennis courts was a great moment that I’m sure our students will remember forever.The final day of the festival was held at a local theater. ASB had prepared the venue for a day of rehearsals and fun. Students rehearsed and practiced in the morning, ate lunch and had some fun in the afternoon before the concert started. Again ASB did not disappoint with yet another activity to immerse us in Indian culture. After lunch, students had a choice or either Yoga or Bollywood dancing. The students all chose Bollywood. An instructor on stage showed us the movements and after about an hour of practice, students performed a Bollywood dance as you might see in a film.
Finally, the moment arrived. The boys put on their dress shirts, slacks, coats, and ties. The girls donned their dresses for the occasion. Students performed their music to an extremely high standard. Some of the works are usually only performed by high school or university choirs. When you have 125 dedicated young musicians, you can do pretty much anything. After the concert, there were some tearful goodbyes. Friendships that had been made over the three days had to separate for the respective trips home. There was a very nice reception in the lobby of the theater. Students said their farewells and in less than an hour, it was over.
These kinds of experiences change people at a very fundamental level. Coming together over 3 days to create art is no easy task, but it shows what people can accomplish in a short period of time if we work together. In addition, the culture, food, and friendships will continue long after this festival has passed.
Next year, XLIS MYP 1-3 students will have an opportunity to attend another AMIS Asian Middle School Honor Choir in Kuala Lumpur from February 5-9. If you would like to participate in an AMIS event please contact Mr. Lars Jefferson or Mr. Michael Skillern for more information.
“Amis choir was amazing! It was really fun getting to learn all the beautiful songs and seeing all the amazing culture and all the new people. It was especially nice to see this community we all didn’t know each other in the beginning of the week and we all just came together to learn this music and show what we did together. Even though we never meet each other till that day we all made a community that we will remember forever. ”
Upcoming AMIS Events for 2019-2020
Asian Middle School Honor Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs
International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
February 5-9 2020
The following festivals require a formal audition. Auditions are will take place on October 5, 2019. See Mr. Jefferson or Mr. Skillern if you are interested in auditioning for these groups.
AMIS Asian Middle School Honor Band
Shanghai American School, Puxi
February 12-16, 2020
AMIS High School Honor Choirs
American International School of Muscat, Oman
March 11-15 2020
AMIS High School Honor Band and Orchestra
American School of Dubai, U.A.E.
March 18-22 2020