Looking #Sharp: STA Choir’s Many Successes and Accomplishments This Year

After being unable to perform for two years because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, STA’s choirs are back in action, earning many different awards and achievements this year and preparing for their trip to Italy.


by Annie McShane, Copy Editor

With the numerous athletic programs at STA, some may fear that fine arts might get lost in the shuffle. Although the three STA choirs may not have any banners hanging in the gym, they have racked up quite the list of accomplishments, especially during this 2021-2022 school year. 

     STA choir members’ most recent competition was the Missouri State High School Activities Association [MHSAA] District Solo Ensemble Music Festival. This is sophomore Carli O’Toole’s first year in choir at STA as well as her first time competing in the festival. She was in a group with fellow sophomores Sarah Schwaller, Elizabeth Connor, Abby Margolin, Parker Growney, Lucy Wooden, Mamie Magdline and Millie Lee. They worked hard to prepare for the competition. 

     “Mr. Perry arranged the groups for us, and we’d get together basically every morning and practice,” O’Toole said. “Then we drove 40 minutes away to a high school and sang in front of some judges.”

     O’Toole’s group earned gold at the District Festival and will now move on to State. They will continue to prepare the same songs for the Festival, something O’Toole believes takes time and dedication. 

     “The preparation for that event includes a lot of practice, mainly during lunches, and in the mornings,” O’Toole said. “There will also be one or two days during choir where [the class] will do something else in the main room and then Mr. Perry or Robert will go into another room to play the piano so we can practice our songs.” 

     Another recent competition that members of STA Singers—one of STA’s three choirs—competed in was the MSHSAA State Music Large Group Festival. Senior Molly Symmonds has been a member of STA Singers since her sophomore year. She shared about the group’s participation in this competition.

     “We got gold ratings on our big group performance and on our sight reading,” Symmonds said. “We were really proud of that, because we didn’t think we were as prepared as we were, and then we did really well.”

     Along with participating in the STA Singers Large Group, Symmonds, like O’Toole, was a member of an ensemble that competed at the MSHSAA District Solo Ensemble Music Festival. 

     “I have done ensemble, every year,” Symmonds said. “This year, my ensemble got an exemplary rating, which is the highest rating, so we’re going to state at the end of April.”

     Although Symmonds has been in choir and competed in the District Ensemble Festival since her freshman year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this will only be the second year that she has ever attended the MSHSAA State Music Festival. Choir teacher Steve Perry believes that overcoming the challenges that choir faced because of the pandemic has been their biggest accomplishment. 

     “One of the big downfalls, other than all the health crises that we’ve experienced, is that singing was not a safe thing,” Perry said. “Our seniors are the only class that have gone to a State Music Festival and they were freshmen the last time they did it, so we’re working against kind of a deficit as far as preparation goes coming into this year. The students have really been working hard to overcome that deficit, so I think our number-one accomplishment is just the tenacity, positive attitude and team spirit of all of our singers coming together and saying, ‘We can do this,’ and by golly, they have.” 

     This year, the largest number of students qualified to attend the State Music Festival in all of Perry’s seven years here at STA. Perry was particularly proud of the STA Singers’ gold rating in the sight reading category at the Large Group Festival. 

     “The sight reading judge contacted me at the end of the day and he said we were the only school that he gave the gold medal to for sight reading,” Perry said. 

     Along with their upcoming State competitions, the STA choirs will be performing at the Fine Arts Showcase at the end of this month. Another upcoming event that they have is their trip to Italy. Symmonds was surprised that the trip, which had been talked about for many years, was finally happening. 

     “We first heard about it last year, but I didn’t think it was actually gonna happen because [Mr. Perry] always mentions trips, but we never do them,” Symmonds said. “But last summer, he started actually making a plan and our parents went to virtual meetings and discussions about it, so then I signed up for it.”

     The STA choir will be singing at many different Masses during their trip, most notably at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Perry is so excited to take this trip and honored by the fact that the students will get to sing in such a monumental place.

     “It’s kind of a pilgrimage trip as well as a performance tour,” Perry said. “How many Catholic high school choirs get to go sing at St. Peter’s Basilica? It’s kind of a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity.”

     O’Toole is looking forward to experiencing the history of the country and is so excited about the overall experience she will gain from the trip. 

     “I’m most excited about just being in a foreign country with a bunch of my friends,” O’Toole said. “And obviously I’m so excited to sing in these ancient cathedrals; that’ll be so cool.” 

    Symmonds expressed her sentiments of being excited about sharing this experience with her peers, as well as enjoying the culture of the foreign country. 

     “I’m just excited to hang out with my friends and be in Italy,” Symmonds said. “And to dine on some yummy Italian food.”