Two International School of Beijing (ISB) students, chaperoned by MS/HS Performing Arts Teacher, Vyvienne Schapel, recently helped more than 40 adults at a local factory come together to sing as a choir. Grade 11 students Stephanie P. and Alex K. led the employees at the Alphatex cashmere factory through five rehearsals in advance of their performance to an audience of 350 people at the company’s 15th-anniversary gala.
The students' ability in music, Chinese language proficiency, and their teaching skills made them very popular coaches with the workers. “When I first walked into the room, everyone seemed extremely welcoming and genuinely excited to sing, to the extent that they were all clapping and cheering,” Stephanie told us.
To facilitate each practice, Stephanie and Alex traveled to the factory, located in a nearby Beijing suburb. Each rehearsal began with the students leading the choir through some simple vocal warm-ups; demonstrating each phrase before having the Alphatex employees repeat it. Next, they divided up the choir, spending individual time with each section (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) and focusing more deeply on technique. Finally, they gathered together the entire choir to practice as one group.
Stephanie and Alex both felt the quality of their music education at ISB, as well as the communication skills and confidence they have developed at the school, helped them pursue and prepare for the opportunity. They heaped special praise for MS/HS Performing Arts Teacher and ISB choir conductor, Vyvienne Schapel. "She set us a wonderful example of how to direct a choir,” said Stephanie.
Performing this service work had a profound impact on both students. Alex told us that although he initially had trouble believing the choir would come together, in the end, he was hugely impressed. “I felt really proud as they improved so much after each session together,” he said. “I feel much more confident in my ability to teach music now.” Stephanie agreed that the experience had been worthwhile, both for the choir and for her own learning. “We helped these people transform from a group who didn’t know how to read music or sing, into a successful choir,” she said. She also told us that she had learned to communicate more effectively. “The experience taught me to keep an open mind and remain patient; to remember that different people learn at different speeds and that everyone should be treated equally.”