Vocal Aspen students making their marks
Something to sing about
The following Aspen public schools students have been recognized this year for their choral skills.
Colorado Middle All State School Choir
James Nottingham, seventh grade
Natalie Tullar, seventh grade
Giavanna Henrichon, eighth grade
Colorado Choral Directors Select Choir
Joseph Wolfer-Jenkins, 12th grade
Lydia Styslinger, 11th grade
Carolina Robinson, 11th grade
District 8 Honor Jazz Choir, run by Jazz Aspen
Adriana Cipponeri, 10th grade
Lydia Styslinger, 11th grade
Students in Aspen middle and high school’s choral programs have had a lot to sing about lately, and it hasn’t been just spreading good cheer.
For sure, the budding vocalists have been busy this month. A winter choir concert at the Aspen District Theatre and the high school choir’s performance at the Christmas tree lighting events at The Little Nell and Sardy House, for example, will do that.
A handful of the vocalists also have received state recognition for their skills and talents this year (see factbox), while participation in the middle and high choirs is swelling, Erica Nottingham said.
Nottingham began running the two schools’ choral programs in the 2018-19 academic year. She had moved from Long Island, New York, to the Aspen School District with her husband, Don, who took a job as prosecutor at Aspen’s office of the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
As the teacher of the choirs for the sixth-grade class, the combined chorus for the seventh and eighth grades, and the high school, Nottingham — who once taught at Campus Middle School in Cherry Creek — also introduced an International Baccalaureate music class to Aspen High.
“When I came here,” she recalled, “there was no IB music at the high school.”
There wasn’t much of a choir, either. Seven members comprised the high school version, whereas now it has more than 20 vocalists. Participation also has surged in the middle school, which had 13 choir singers last year and now more than 50.
Others have taken notice of the increase in involvement, including Tharyn Mulberry, high school principal.
“In one short year, Mrs. Nottingham has single-handedly reignited our students’ interest in choral music. … Her passion has been inspiring to students and well received by the community,” he said.
With the musical programs now having stability, Nottingham said she believes they can continue to grow in size and improve in quality.
“I think there has been a history of teacher turnover in the music department, and so in light of that, it’s very hard to develop a program because of relationships with students and the relationships with families,” she said. “It’s all about trust. It’s about creating positive performance opportunities where the kids feel successful.”
Nottingham also has other plans, such as starting a parent choir, for instance. But the one nagging issue, she said, is space. As in singing space.
“I feel that the choir is moving beautifully and growing beautifully,” she said. “But my biggest concern is I don’t have a classroom. I don’t have instructional classroom space, and I realize real estate is of prime importance at the school district, but this is something we need.”
For now, though, Nottingham said students are gaining confidence with each performance. She said she takes music education seriously because of its impact on students.
“I believe so passionately in the value of a music education for all students, especially teenagers,” she said. “Music ensembles engage students in teamwork, creative problem solving, communication and expression in the most profound ways.
“When supported, music becomes the heart and soul of a school and community. It brings people together in the most positive ways. It is for this reason that I have dedicated my life to music and sharing that joy and passion with children and teenagers. As I tell all my students, ‘Make everything you do musical; lead with your heart and the rest will fall into place.’”
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