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Sarah Iadorola is the director of an award winning choral program at North Haven High School. Soon, they’ll all be traveling to the nation’s capital in an effort to repeat last year’s superior performance. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Choral Director Sarah Iadorola has high goals; the highest goals possible, actually. After all four of North Haven High School’s (NHHS) choral groups earned a superior rating—the highest possible—at last year’s Festival of Music, Sarah hopes to do it again.
This year, NHHS will be sending its choral groups, two jazz bands, concert band, wind ensemble, and an orchestra to compete in Washington, D.C. from April 25 to 28. The choir will perform two songs to show off its abilities. This often means performing music in different languages and tempos as well as alternating between genres like sacred music and secular music. Occasionally, Sarah says, the choir will perform an a capella version of popular music.
“I’m definitely picking music that the students wouldn’t naturally pick themselves but stuff that I know can really offer them a unique experience,” Sarah says. “I think the more excited I get about it, the more excited my students get about it.”
The way Sarah selects music and presents it to the students is influenced by her own musical upbringing and education.
“I had a fantastic high school chorus teacher at Farmington High [School]. She was a great mentor. She gave me a lot of extra opportunities,” Sarah says. “I felt that I didn’t want to leave high school and never be in a choir room again.”
When she went Providence College to study music education, she learned from another important mentor.
“Most of my [teaching] style comes from what I learned from them,” Sarah says. “[My high school director] picked music that wouldn’t have been something that, as a teenager, I would have gravitated towards. She was always enthusiastic, and she helped us get excited about what it could be like to sing in an awesome group.”
Having access to a high school choir like that inspired her to strive for a similar group in her own classroom.
“That teamwork and that ability to have really meaningful experiences even as a teenager in that setting was awesome,” she says. “I try and do the same.”
She says she wants to find more challenging music for her students to read, as well as music from other cultures that they might not otherwise have heard. She wants students to continue with their own musicianship and to enjoy music beyond high school.
“They might continue to sing in choirs or continue to seek out musical performances,” she says.
As part of this effort, Sarah says the department tries to expose students to other local ensembles and performances, like the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.
“We try to show them that there’s a lot of great music especially nearby,” Sarah says. “It’s all available. It’s just a matter of seeking it out.”
This year, one of the choir’s competition pieces is an arrangement composed by a Yale professor.
“The students seem to really like the music that we’ve got,” she says. “I try to open their minds a little bit because…I think a lot of people start with [a capella arrangements of popular music], but there’s a lot of great music that’s out there that offers a lot for students to develop their musicianship.”
Now in her fourth year in NHHS’s Music Department, Sarah also directs the vocal performances in the annual spring musical. This year’s production of Beauty and the Beast is a collaboration with teachers Ken Tedeschi, who directs the band, and Jacqlyn Giordano, who directs the stage.
“We know it’s a big investment in time and in money so we challenge the kids to do their best and to sound professional,” she says.
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