Finding Voice

Submitted Photo by Lauren Alexander

When junior Lauren Alexander went to Holiday Spectacular in fifth grade, she said it gave her confirmation about what she was meant to do. She saw a girl sing the song “When She Loved Me” from “Toy Story 2,” and she knew she wanted to perform.

“It was just one of those things, like, ‘Oh my goodness, I want to be able to sing that one day,’” Alexander said.

Alexander said performing arts has helped to give her a voice in a school of over 5,000 students.

“I know particularly I’ve learned throughout the years (and) different songs and different performances you get to share a lot about yourself,” Alexander said.

She started as a dancer, but when Alexander began middle school, she realized she wanted to exercise her vocal talents.

“When I entered middle school, I started singing. Acting kind of came later,” Alexander said.

Later, Alexander took applied music, a class which, according to the CHS Program of Studies, is used to develop students’ vocal abilities. In the class, she had the opportunity to choose any song she wanted to perform. As she chose her song, she said it was important that she selected something that showcased her individual voice.

“I think it’s real interesting when you have a contrast character to what you’re used to,” Alexander said.

While Alexander’s main avenue is singing, another way for students at CHS to showcase their voices is acting. Junior Eric Bembenek said acting helped him to develop his voice and personality at CHS. He said it also complements his already extroverted personality.

“I think acting on the stage can help you be more outgoing,” he said. “I was always pretty outgoing, but I was nervous about being in front of an audience.”

Yet, after acting for a while, he said he started to enjoy it. Bembenek has been acting since middle school and has continued in high school, as it helps him relieve stress.

“(Acting is) definitely fun. It definitely takes my mind off of things that are bad,” Bembenek said.

Photo by Divya Annamalai

Similar to Bembenek, director of theater Maggie Cassidy’s main extracurricular activity in high school was theater. Unlike Bembenek, she had hopes of becoming a famous actress.

“When I was in high school I was pretty sure I was going to be a famous movie star,” Cassidy said.

Like Bembenek, Cassidy said she thinks acting has affected her personality. She has been acting since she was nine years old, and she said it has helped her to expand her voice and become more confident.

“I feel like it empowered me; I feel like it gave me more confidence,” Cassidy said.

As an actor, theater isn’t always predictable, and Cassidy said the competition to even get onto the

stage may be a deterrent to fledgling actors.

“The only frustrating thing about theater is that when it comes to the actual productions that we do, it is an audition into production. There’s kids who get discouraged when they don’t get to make a show,” Cassidy said.

But that doesn’t mean her students can’t make their voices heard in other ways. Her community of students, or “ensemble” as she likes to call them, can get involved in theater by working behind the scenes and joining Theater Club, which allows her students to display their presence at CHS.

“So that they can have a voice, so that they can feel like they are making a mark and not just one of the 5,000 students here wandering the halls,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said she lets her students create their own productions. She said it allows them to express their own voice, even if it’s just within her theater class.

“Giving kids the opportunity to make all of the choices and get to be in charge gives them a voice,” Cassidy said.

Bembenek, a former student of Cassidy, is an Ambassador like Alexander, and said his position as an Ambassador comes with a certain presence in CHS.

“I feel like (Ambassadors) should (also) be good ambassadors of the school,” Bembenek said.

Photo by Divya Annamalai

Alexander agreed and said the Ambassadors all help each other express their voices and share opinions with their peers.

“In the choir setting as a group you can share important messages,” Alexander said. “(It’s an) atmosphere where (we) can be 100 percent focused on that message (we) want to send. I feel like that is just unique,” Alexander said.

Every year, each student sings a solo for their choir. With an assortment of songs in mind, the students can select any genre they prefer. This solo encourages students to show a part of themselves to their peers.

Particularly with this project, the Ambassadors, according to Alexander, don’t judge each other. Instead, they always return to the idea of personal expression and encouragement.

“The entire room will understand and respect you,” Alexander said.

After high school, Bembenek said he wants to continue with theater.

“I hopefully want to go to college to major in contemporary theater. A lot of people don’t think there is a future in it, which may be true. I hope there is,” Bembenek said.

Similarly, Alexander said she plans to major in performing arts in college.

Alexander said, “I hope to pursue (vocal performance), and even if that doesn’t work out, I will definitely keep it with me.”

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Jordyn Blakey