Juniors Amelia Schulte, left, and Kate Willnauer prepare to attack each other with pool noodles while ziplining at the STA Singers retreat Aug. 20. photo by Madi Winfield
Juniors Amelia Schulte, left, and Kate Willnauer prepare to attack each other with pool noodles while ziplining at the STA Singers retreat Aug. 20. photo by Madi Winfield

Campfire songs: A choir retreat in Potosi, Mo.

On Friday, August 19, the STA Singers departed for Potosi, MO to learn new songs and bond with each other.

August 28, 2016

story by Katie Gregory

A fire is crackling and Courtney is laughing and singing with her friends. She looks up and sees her marshmallow has gotten just the right amount of burnt and she quickly makes a s’more and eats it. It scalds her mouth when she bites down and she is going to itch with bug bites for the next week, but she doesn’t care because she is with the people she has developed new memories with over the past two days. She is sad that she has to leave this weekend behind but she knows that she will continue to form friendships with these girls throughout the upcoming year.

Junior Courtney Talken and many of her fellow STA Singers recently went on a 3-day bonding retreat in Potosi, Missouri. The retreat was planned by director of choirs Steve Perry, who has been coordinating and attending retreats of this nature since 1990.

“The retreat was held at the YMCA of the Ozarks, which is also known as Trout Lodge,” Perry said. “Our focus was on team building, so we did a lot of get-to-know-you type activities for developing trust and a common goal. We also rehearsed and got a head start on the year. We essentially learned two songs while we were there.”

For the students, however, the most memorable part of the retreat seemed to be the outdoor, “summer camp-like” activities.

“[At the retreat] we sang, mini-golfed and played tether ball,” sophomore and STA Singer Margaret Jordahl said. “We did a lot of team building activities. We went zip lining, which is apparently a team building activity. We threw pool noodles at each other while we were zip lining, it was fun.”

The Ozarks YMCA is known for these types of activities, listing many of them on their website and boasting “the experience of a lifetime” for their customers.

“[The retreat] was like a summer camp kind of thing” Talken said. “People swam, and there were paddle boards. I went sailing, and people went on canoes. We had a campfire and s’mores.”

Despite the popularity of this retreat among attendees, this is the first year that STA has held an event like this. Although Perry has been coordinating choir retreats for 26 years, this is only his second year teaching at STA and his first year implementing the retreat.

“As far as I know, this is the first year STA has done a retreat like this,” Perry said. “I held this because STA Singers is our select choir and when seniors graduate, we need to develop a new sense of team so that everyone is comfortable. It helps introduce the new singers to the choir and to what we do. We get to know those singers and they get to know us.”

photos by Madi Winfield

If team bonding was the objective of the retreat, Perry certainly seems to have accomplished it in the eyes of the STA Singers.

“Going in, I had hoped that the choir would grow closer as a group unit” Talken said. “I was excited to grow closer to all the new sophomores in STA Singers and all the upperclassmen too. I think we established a good group dynamic, which is hard to get, having just one class per day. It’s hard to establish that in 40 minutes.”

Jordahl agrees that she grew closer with her classmates. Ultimately, she feels the STA Singers grew closer as not only a choir, but also as friends.

“The sisterhood was very present at the retreat,” Jordahl said. “We would do things where we would say affirmations and stuff to everyone and people started crying. It was so emotional. I feel like by the end, everyone knew each other.”

Perry appears to agree that the sisterhood was present at this retreat.

“I think that the choir program is a natural window into the sisterhood,” Perry said. “I felt that it was actually a very easy step for our choir to develop a sense of team because of the sense of sisterhood and the focus on sisterhood here. We really strive to bond with one another and to recognize that each person has her own unique gifts that are a valuable contribution to our team and to our choir.”

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