Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a joyous time to remember those who have passed away. In Mexico, ancient Aztec traditions were combined with Christianity during the Spanish conquest. As a result, each year families construct colorful altars or ofrendas in their homes that essentially welcome the spirit of their loved ones on November 1st and 2nd.
Senior Successes: Katie Hughes Makes a Joyful Noise in the Junior Mendelssohn Choir
For the fifth year in a row, senior Katie Hughes auditioned and was selected to be a part of the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. This one-of-a-kind choir showcases some of the finest young singers in the Pittsburgh region.
Katie has a love of music and wanted to be a part of a program with other students who shared her passion. “I wanted to work with people who were passionate, talented, and devoted to singing. I also wanted to learn how to become a better musician through learning very complicated compositions,” Katie shared. During her first audition, she recalled being very nervous because she compared herself to the other student competitors who came from art schools or who were pursuing music at a professional level. “We have to audition every year, and have to perform a classical aria or art song in front of the conductor and assistant conductors,” she explained. The conductors must have recognized her talent and didn’t noticed her nerves because she was invited to be a member of the choir.
Being a part of the choir takes a lot of time – approximately 12 two-and-a-half hour practices on Monday nights at the Third Presbyterian Church in Shady Side leading up to their concert in November with an optional performance in the spring. Katie has to balance those rehearsals along with school work and other extracurricular activities. “This year we are singing with the adult Mendelssohn Choir, and last year I sang with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) for a Leonard Bernstein tribute concert. Sometimes it can be challenging to balance school with rehearsals, but I have just learned to stay on top of my studies and work ahead. I have become very good at time management,” she said.
Katie’s favorite thing about being in the choir is singing. “This may sound obvious, but because there are so many talented singers, our end product is always amazing. It is an honor to get to sing with a choir that makes such an incredible sound,” she said. The Junior Mendelssohn Choir has opened the door to opportunities for her to perform at Heinz Hall with the PSO. “Although [the concert] wasn’t a Mendelssohn-affiliated concert, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity if I wasn’t part of Mendelssohn,” she explained.
Katie has performed various genres of music in numerous venues throughout the area and favors the Third Presbyterian Church and gospel music. “It is a beautiful space that we are so lucky to be able to perform in. We sing all types of music – classical, art song, gospel, etc. I absolutely love singing gospel music – those are always the most fun. I also love the songs that we perform in other languages. As you can imagine, we sing a lot in Latin, but I love singing in French,” she said. This year, the choir is taking on a piece in Estonian and a Zimbabwe greeting song.
As a senior who is applying to colleges, Katie is thinking about minoring in music or musical theater. “Although I have not applied to any school for music specifically, the music programs offered by schools have greatly influenced my decisions on where I am applying,” she said. Katie plans to major in international business on a pre-law track, but knows that music will be a part of her college experience.