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For choir, such sweet sorrow

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by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

An end-of-the-year concert by Sequim student vocalists provided the perfect send-off for a special group of seniors and for a special choir director.

 

Hundreds of friends, family members and music lovers filled the auditorium at Sequim High on Thursday night, June 16, to hear students from the middle and high schools celebrate the end of the school year with a big-time concert.

 


Prior to the concert, composer Jesse Eggiman and his buddy Josh Conomos perform a final run-through of “You Taught Me Everything,” a song Eggiman dedicated to departing choir director Stephanie Clark.


The three-hour program opened with a solo and duet performance, choir awards and a goodbye to seniors. That was followed up with performances by the eighth-grade choir, the concert choir and the high school’s select choir.

 

Three seniors were given scholarships by the choir’s boosters: Jessica Lauritzen, $500; James Willis, $500 and Rachel Chumley, $250.

Ms. Clark’s opus

The evening’s performances also included the debut of a song written by Jesse Eggiman, which he dedicated to Stephanie Clark, who after eight years at the helm, has decided not to return as choir director. Eggiman entitled his composition, “You Taught Me Everything.”

 

Clark, who many credit with revitalizing the district’s choir program, recently announced she is changing jobs, moving from her current position as choir director to teach at Greywolf Elementary School.

 

Clark said her move was prompted by a decision to reduce the choir-director position from a full-time job to a 0.8 position. That would mean a 20-percent decline in pay and benefits for Clark, who said she simply can’t afford the cut.

 

She said the change in the position is due to the district’s ongoing budget woes. “It’s all money shifting around,” she said.

 

Clark’s decision has left a great many parents and students unsettled.

 

“I’m not happy,” Clark said, but noted, “It was nice of Mr. Bentley (the district superintendent) to come down to talk to me. He said, ‘When you start a program, you think it will be infinite.’”

 

Clark said she was pleas-ed with what she accomplished as choir director. “In seven years I moved it further than I thought I would.” In the end, Clark provided leadership for three choirs and taught a performing arts class.

 

Clark also teaches private voice lessons and will continue to do so. In that way she will continue to play a role in ensuring the high school choir always has strong voices, she said.

 

“But life has a beginning and an end,” Clark said. “I’m getting a new start at Greywolf.”

 

In fact she said she’s looking forward to the challenge. “It’s a great time for me to go down there. I’m excited I get to put my spin on a new program.”

 

“It’s hard on everybody,” she admitted, “but kids are resilient — if you have music in your heart and soul.”

 

Jim Stoffer, president of the Sequim High School Choir Booster Club, agreed it’s a difficult time, but said, “The boosters are staying. We have a loyalty to Ms. Clark, but our overarching responsibility is supporting the program.”

 

Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

 

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