Highlands High School chorus members set to spread holiday cheer
They’re called Golden Stars for a reason.
Highlands High School’s three performance choirs — Variations, Honors and Concert — collaborate each holiday season, performing at private venues and offering public performances throughout Harrison .
“Join our HHS Golden Stars as we travel ‘on tour’ throughout the Highlands community this holiday season,” Highlands director/choreographer Michael Zeiler said. “I feel it is important to give back to the community, and our musical gifts these students showcase is the perfect way to do that.”
Zeiler said the “on tour” program has grown, with more than 60 students participating this year and additional performances added.
He stressed the benefits of his students gaining “real world” performance experience and added that the students may earn student volunteer hours required for graduation.
“This is our sixth season performing ‘on tour’ in Harrison Township, and we actually have to turn places down. People reach out and we have a full calendar. It’s a blessing we get asked back each year,” Zeiler said.
A Highlands High School graduate, Zeiler credits his choral director, Lorraine Smith, for inspiring him to do the same for his choral program.
“She always had us out in the community performing for the public,” Zeiler said.
The Golden Stars’ performance season kicked off with a Gold Card holiday luncheon performance for the district’s senior citizens Wednesday at the high school.
Other performances scheduled include a visit to a local rehabilitation facility and singing for patients at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“Our residents are already asking for the students,” said Karla Langer, recreational assistant coordinator at Platinum Ridge Center in Brackenridge. “The residents cry and clap when they perform. We have had some residents that don’t respond much to staff really open up when the students visit and sing their holiday songs. The music makes a difference.”
Variations Show Choir member Jake Arvay said the traveling aspect of performing is rewarding.
“Our singing provides joy to those who are alone or upset during the holidays,” said Arvay, a senior. “I’ve seen seniors at the Gold Card (school event) performance that don’t have anyone else. When we perform for the blind, it touches me in a profound way. They can hear the music, and they always look so happy.”
“I have seen students stop and serenade our residents,” Langer said. “These kids have so much talent and compassion.”
Zeiler said he hopes to add future performance dates at Children’s Hospital.
Student James Vance has witnessed how this tour brings people together.
“The music creates a joyful and happy environment and, as a student, I get the opportunity to interact with all sorts of different people,” he said. “And I have seen how the magic of music can put a smile on anyone’s face.”
Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.