Rachel’s forte

Making strides in her music career, senior Rachel Sallman participates in an independent study where she conducts the freshman girls’ concert choir.

Sallman conducts the freshman girls’ concert choir during their rehearsal.

Ethan Knauth, Writer

Transitioning  into a new role, senior Rachel Sallman now conducts the freshman girls concert choir, a choir she was previously a part of.

Every year, a senior in choir is selected to conduct an independent study. Choir teacher, Beth Richey-Sullivan wanted to carry on this long standing tradition.

“[Rachel] approached me about [the independent study opportunity] last spring, and I could just tell she was really passionate about it,” Richey-Sullivan said. “It’s always been a tradition to have someone do it, and Rachel voiced that she’d like to be that person.”

Avery Feather, a member of the freshman girls choir, was elated when she found out Sallman was going to help out with her class.

“When I found out she was going to be teaching, I was very excited because I knew she was a very talented individual,” Feather said.

In the independent study, Sallman said she helps the choir reach their potential by giving them tips in areas they can improve on and leading the class in their daily exercises.

Feather said the choir has been responsive to the creativity Sallman has brought to the table. “She handed out straws to sing out of, which helped us focus on our forward breathing, and I have been using that a lot,” said Feather.

Sallman’s passion for choir began in the sixth  grade. At BVNW she sings with Chorale and Chamber Singers, but this year she wanted to take the next step.

“It’s kind of been a long journey of just falling deeper and deeper in love with [choir],” Sallman said. “That’s when I started to decide that this was what I wanted to do with my life, and this is what I wanted to pursue…taking more and more choir classes and getting deeper into it.”

Transitioning into the role of teaching has been difficult at times for Sallman.

“It’s kind of outside my comfort zone and it has really pushed me,” Sallman said. “I am not just listening for what I can fix about myself or where I fit into the pair, I’m listening for what I can fix with everyone.”

Richey-Sullivan said conducting consists of a great deal of listening and providing feedback to the students.

“You have an idea of what you want this music to sound like in your head, and the ensemble sings and you just listen,” Richey- Sullivan said. “You think ‘Does this match what I had in my head?’”

Sallman sees the independent study as an opportunity to try out music education before she actually has to commit to it. Richey-Sullivan said the experience could put Sallman a step ahead of her peers in college.

“A lot of students who want to become music teachers go to college and have never gotten a chance to stand in front of their peers and conduct, especially in a concert setting, so it puts her definitely at an advantage,” Richey-Sullivan said.

Sallman appreciates the mentorship she has received at BVNW and wants to pass on the torch to her future students.

“I have loved my experience here in Blue Valley Northwest choir,” Sallman said. “I really want to continue bringing that legacy of good high school music to other high school choirs, hopefully [giving] people that same experience I have had.”

To Feather, Sallman has been more than someone who just helps out with the choir.

“Not only is Rachel someone to look up to, but she’s also a great friend,” said Feather. “Everyone in the choir loves her.”