Although they don’t have a classroom to meet in presently, the students of Santa Clarita Christian School’s choir are still finding ways to learn together, and they’re doing it alongside famous names in music.
For the past two Fridays, Susi Johnson, the SCCS choir director, has asked her choir students in both junior high and high school to log on for an hour-long Zoom class.
And for the last two weeks, the students have logged on to find a prominent music industry or entertainment professional waiting for them and willing to answer the students’ questions.
“The biggest question that we’re going to ask them is, if our students are interested in that field, what are the things they need to do to pursue that,” said Johnson. “These interviews are to just kind of help really motivate these kids. We’re in L.A., we’re in like the land of opportunity. Where if you want to pursue this, this is what you need to know, for that kind of thing.”
This past Friday, the students were able to sit down with James Monroe Iglehart, who’s been on Broadway playbills as The Genie in Disney’s stage adaptation of “Aladdin,” and Marquis De Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in “Hamilton.”
An SCCS choir member for the last six years, and the group’s chaplain for the last four, Ramy Wahba said the experience was both helpful and unique for his education.
“Our other teachers have jumped on this opportunity right away to kind of revolutionize the way that we’ve been doing our schoolwork,” said Wahba. “But this has been definitely unique as this isn’t something that we would have typically done in our day-to-day choir.”
During the phone call, Iglehart shared what it was like to be on a Broadway stage, performing with some of the greatest musicians and singers in the world. He told students what things he did to get to that point, including sharing a story about he and his childhood friend, two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, performed a song together on stage during their school’s talent show.
Before he and Ali had finished the song, the choreography that they had done had winded him, he said. And therefore, he learned that day that he would need to physically train himself to be able to move around on stage while singing and not lose his breathing support.
Wahba said for him, the big take away from asking Iglehart questions was what he could start doing immediately to improve as a performer, especially under quarantine.
“He said no matter what we’re doing, be able to channel our creative side,” Wahba said. “So whether that be jotting down any idea that comes to our mind or taking just the time every day to sing, to dance, to be in tune with that creative side, that’s what’s going to benefit us most.”
The SCCS choir plans to continue to do their For the Arts Friday for the remainder of the semester, Johnson said.