2020 Cantus Choir Wins National Competition

Video courtesy of Ken Sieloff

Abigail George, Guest Writer

     Last year during Spring Break the High School Choir competition season was cut short due to the worldwide pandemic. Despite this the 2019-2020 varsity men’s choir Cantus (kan-toos) was named a national semi-finalist at the American Prize Competition for Choral Performance in the High school division in early March. 

     This award is one following many that group has also been awarded.

     “The Permian High School Cantus, directed by Kenneth Sieloff, is the National Winner of the 2020 Mark of Excellence/ National Choral Honors Project,” the Foundation For Music Education announced. 

     The American Prize National Nonprofit Competition is considered to be the most comprehensive contest in the classical arts and takes admissions from all across the United States.

     “This competition tests the standards of musical directory and performance,” choir director Ken Sieloff said.  

     During a trip to Arkansas, when the group had been invited to perform of the Southwestern ACDA conference, the directors took a recording of the group performing.

     “This concert happened the week before Spring Break last year, and was the last performance our program gave before things shut down,” Sieloff said. “It was an incredible trip and an amazing opportunity for our students.”

     With support from fellow choir director Jeb Harris, Sieloff submitted a recording of the men performing to the competition committee.

     “The performance was a great success and an amazing moment as a director to watch our young men succeed on stage and in life,” Harris said. 

     The Cantus choir consists of about 55 men, ranging from sophomores to seniors, who have reached an advanced level in choir performing.

     “Cantus is like the varsity team of men’s choir, but many of us were also a part of other choirs,” graduated member Colby Nabarrette said.

     The men learned a large range of songs last year including songs that were acapella and in different languages.

     “One of the songs that we learned was in German which was really cool learning to sing,” junior Garrett Watkins said. “It was challenging but exciting because everything that you are singing is different than when you’re singing an English piece.” 

     The process of teaching the men was extensive and testing for the young men had to dedicate not only school day time but also after school hours to perfecting their musical pieces.

     “It was a long and hard year with a two-hour rehearsal each and every Monday night followed by a Saturday clinic,” Harris said. 

     Although many of the men in the organization had choir as a priority they still had their doubts on if all of the hard work and effort would pay off at the end of the season.

     “After all the long and strenuous hours of rehearsing some days made us question whether or not it was worth it, but working with a group of guys all year long bonds you into a family that makes success so much better,” junior Kyler Fife said. 

     After their performance at the Southwestern ACDA Conference, the men came home to the news that school would not be returning for the next few weeks, which made the graduating seniors disappointed their time in the organization was cut short.

     “Because of covid we had to say goodbye to the organization a whole lot earlier than we were planning on,” graduated member Davis Clarke said.

     Despite the abrupt stop to their season Sieloff saw that the group still had great potential with the recording they had taken that March. 

     “We spent an entire year working on that one performance in Arkansas, which was supposed to really be the highlights of my four years at Permian,” current senior Isaiah Urias said. “But that recording that we took has seemed to keep on bringing us more and more highlights.” 

     When it was announced to the group that they were semi-finalists for a very prestigious award they couldn’t have felt more proud.

     “I am so proud of my brothers who poured their hearts and souls into the music we created. Succeeding with my brothers by my side was a great feeling,” Fife said. “Truly, none of this would have been possible without the guidance of our amazing directors.”

The Permian choir organization has taken this accomplishment as proof that they are successfully teaching students and learning the classical art of choir. Not only is this award one that recognizes the best of the best but also has continued to put Permian on the map as a musically versed school.

     “This award shows that we are meeting and exceeding in our profession and in the musical world,” Harris said.