Performing Arts at SV: Proud of the Past, Excited to Move Forward with Ms. Bobi-Jean Alexander
Ms. Bobi-Jean Alexander, Seneca Valley Intermediate High School Choral Director
Bobi-Jean Alexander is in her 29th year of teaching at Seneca Valley. She spent a semester studying choral conducting at the Eastman School of Music and a semester studying the Art of Theatre at Harvard University as extensions of her Master’s in Music Education which she completed at Duquesne University. Mrs. Alexander has performed as a professional singer in many parts of the Eastern United States throughout her teaching career. She directs high school choirs, the Show Choir, the Fall Musical, and community choirs and takes great pride in the rich tradition of the SV choral program.
IN THIS EPISODE, WE WILL REVIEW:
FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)
File Name: Voices E36 Bobi-Jean Alexander.mp3
File Length: 00:10:34
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Intro: Welcome to Voices, a podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District.
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Jeff Krakoff: I'm Jeff Krakoff, speaking with Bobi-Jean Alexander, choir director, thanks for joining us this morning.
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Bobi-Jean Alexander: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
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Jeff Krakoff: So I know your title was choir director, but probably the activity now is it goes by chorus or an up to date times.
00:00:29:14 - 00:00:37:24
Jeff Krakoff: But tell us a little bit about what types of students are participating in course and can participate if they currently aren't.
00:00:38:27 - 00:01:15:28
Bobi-Jean Alexander: You know, the chorus is a very diverse group, we have students who are student athletes, we have students who are more academic, we have students who simply just love to sing. And the great thing is that everybody is welcome in chorus whether they've sung before or whether they haven't sung for a while. That's OK. It's just singing is natural and it's for everybody, not just the strongest singers, but everybody who likes to sing. So everybody is welcome. Even their parents are welcome to be a part of the booster group and have their own support system where they can get to know other parents and support the kids.
00:01:16:00 - 00:01:39:23
Bobi-Jean Alexander: We just we all work together and, you know, the kids get afraid sometimes. Oh, what if somebody is going to listen to me alone? We wouldn't do that to them. Nobody has to sing alone unless they want to show off a little bit. There's both auditioned and non-auditioned groups at all of the secondary levels. So there's just a joy in making music together and all coming together to perform that art form.
00:01:40:01 - 00:01:43:29
Jeff Krakoff: OK, roughly how many students participate in course at Seneca Valley?
00:01:44:18 - 00:02:16:22
Bobi-Jean Alexander: We normally have so many students. In fact, when we travel we take eight to nine buses of voluntary student travelers. Yeah, it's a it's a huge group. We have anywhere between six hundred and nine hundred on the secondary campus singers normally. And right now the six hundred is the low end of things because there aren't as many students on campus right now and it's a little harder to sing from home. But again, usually we are these tremendously large groups.
00:02:17:05 - 00:02:23:25
Jeff Krakoff: OK, awesome. So if I'm a student participating in chorus, give me a snapshot. What can I expect?
00:02:24:15 - 00:02:57:28
Bobi-Jean Alexander: Well, like I said, we're a team and singing on the elementary campus is different from the secondary, just in regard that our fifth and sixth grade courses are awesome and they perform really well, but they just don't have a lot of time together. And in the secondary choirs, it differs in that there's just a lot more time together and not as much standing up because we have our own classrooms and it's just structured differently. So in chorus classes, everybody's got their own seat, they learn about their own voice and how to take care of it, how to expand their vocal ranges and to sing with expression.
00:02:58:00 - 00:03:30:00
Bobi-Jean Alexander: And we sing a ton of different styles of music. We learn everything from Mozart to Motown, and it's just really a lot of fun. So we want everybody to enjoy the art of making music and to appreciate the privilege of being able to make music together. So we have optional festivals, musicals, field trips for students who want to expand their experiences. And for those who don't, I think it's just nice for the kids to feel they've got a place in the building where they can feel safe and feel comfortable.
00:03:31:00 - 00:03:37:03
Jeff Krakoff: So so really, from everything you're saying, there really is a family-type atmosphere with chorus.
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Bobi-Jean Alexander: Absolutely.
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Jeff Krakoff: Tell us more about that.
00:03:40:21 - 00:04:15:03
Bobi-Jean Alexander: Sure. We call ourselves the chorus family for a reason and a lot of bonding happens to the music. You know, it's wonderful to watch the older kids take the younger kids under their wing and help them because they're all a part of the same group. It's just really something special. And, you know, the chorus family is extends into our community. I mean, our kids are ready to get out there and sing and they miss being able to to share that with the live audiences in our community because music uplifts the singer and the audience.
00:04:15:05 - 00:04:45:12
Bobi-Jean Alexander: And, you know, they just want to get out there into the community and make people happy. And we're looking for those opportunities. I'm fortunate enough to be teaching second generation chorus families because I've been around for a long time. And so I'm teaching students who are children of my former students. And it is wonderful to hear the stories of how much chorus at Seneca Valley meant to those people during their developmental years.
00:04:45:14 - 00:05:25:19
Bobi-Jean Alexander: And when I hear those stories, it just reinforces why I want every child to be able to experience chorus. I mean, just knowing how much being a part of it helps people to learn and to grow and even to have changed their life paths. It's. It's amazing, so there are probably a lot of adults out there who are either part of a great music program and they want that for their children or they didn't have that opportunity and they'd like to see their kids have the opportunity that they never had. So I think the being a part of these great music programs can be such a benefit and a great way to get involved in a tradition of excellence right here at our own school.
00:05:25:25 - 00:05:39:07
Jeff Krakoff: Right. So you just use the word benefit. So I know being in a group participating in activities are good for students in so many ways, but specific to chorus, what are the benefits of being part of this group?
00:05:40:01 - 00:06:10:17
Bobi-Jean Alexander: Well, you know, singing with others actually has mental health benefits. I don't know if everybody knows that, but if you think about it, it really makes sense. I mean, singing actually boosts oxytocin levels which help to control stress and anxiety. And singing with other people is just kind of hard to describe. It improves our mood. Humans are wired for rhythmic togetherness. It's in our DNA since the dawn of recorded history. I mean, we can't live without music.
00:06:10:19 - 00:06:46:15
Bobi-Jean Alexander: And the ability to make music together with others is sort of intangible. That aesthetic experience, that it's just one you can't gain from other classes. It gives the kids a sense of belonging and they really need that. And that sense of being part of broader cooperative goals actually relaxes us. And that increases our blood oxygen, elevates our immune responses, and it improves physical as well as mental health. So singing in a group affects the pulse and heart rate and reducing the variability of your heart rate positively impacts your health.
00:06:46:24 - 00:06:51:21
Bobi-Jean Alexander: So being part of collective endeavors is really good for us. It's all beneficial.
00:06:51:29 - 00:07:00:11
Jeff Krakoff: I did not know that. And it's also beneficial for the audience, as you mentioned, some of whom are your former students watching their children.
00:07:00:23 - 00:07:01:17
Bobi-Jean Alexander: We hope so.
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Jeff Krakoff: So you've got a rich history. Tell me a little bit about that history and also what are some of the plans for the future?
00:07:10:14 - 00:07:41:01
Bobi-Jean Alexander: We really do have a rich tradition with the Seneca Valley choirs, we are a Naris Grammy Foundation signature school. We've got the largest men's chorus in the state of Pennsylvania with one hundred high school young men singing in grades nine through 12. We have a Madrigal group that regularly gets invitations to sing with the Butler Symphony and college festivals. We have a show choir that has won national acclaim.
00:07:41:06 - 00:08:23:24
Bobi-Jean Alexander: And when we're able to travel our middle school, our treble, our concert choirs also win national competitions. So we have held yearly music performance assessments. That's called an MPA. Through the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, we bring in collegiate judges for all Seneca Valley students and we have done that yearly for over 20 years. And that helps the kids to learn so much and to feel just so proud of their accomplishments. And we're excited to travel again in the coming year and to just do what our students love to do the most, which is to perform and to feel that sense of accomplishment and bring joy to their audiences.
00:08:24:10 - 00:08:33:09
Jeff Krakoff: Right. Yeah. The COVID pandemic has been tough in so many ways. What kinds of things are you hearing from students, how this has affected them?
00:08:34:08 - 00:09:04:24
Bobi-Jean Alexander: They are still really enjoying singing in the classroom and being together. We have managed to follow all of the safety rules and get used to that and sing through masks and just use more diction so that we can understand each other. And we've managed to keep our distances because we've got some very large rooms that we can perform in with each other. So the kids are still having fun. They're learning a lot about music itself and the history of it and how music is created.
00:09:04:26 - 00:09:26:06
Bobi-Jean Alexander: We've been doing a lot of ear training, which is improving their ability to sing their harmonies so that when we get to sing more for live audiences again, they can feel even more strong and more confident in their skill set. But like I said, the kids, they want to get out there. They know their choirs are top notch and they want to show off again. So they're very excited for getting a chance to finally get back out there.
00:09:26:10 - 00:09:34:19
Jeff Krakoff: I think we all look forward to that. So if I'm a student not currently involved in chorus or choir, how do I go about doing that?
00:09:35:14 - 00:10:05:29
Bobi-Jean Alexander: Oh, it's so easy! You know they can talk to any one of the directors, they can talk to their guidance counselors or they can just go online where they sign up for classes and click the button and just sign up again. They don't have to have prior experience. Singing is natural for all creatures. We want to be able to make that music. And so we just allow them to sign up if they want to. So I invite everybody to to check it out and get involved. And if they need any help or guidance, we're always here to talk to them.
00:10:06:05 - 00:10:12:23
Jeff Krakoff: So regardless of experience, talent, level, age, everybody's welcome, right?
00:10:13:15 - 00:10:19:22
Bobi-Jean Alexander: Absolutely. We want everyone who wants to sing to have a chance to experience singing and have these great opportunities.
00:10:20:04 - 00:10:26:09
Jeff Krakoff: Well, that's great. Well, that's Bobi-Jean Alexander. Thanks so much for talking to us today. And good luck with the rest of the school year.
00:10:26:22 - 00:10:28:24
Bobi-Jean Alexander: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
00:10:29:00 - 00:10:29:26
Jeff Krakoff: All right. Take care.