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OCT.24, 2022 –By now, the booming voices of the Pal-Mac High School Select Choir should be a familiar sound. When we made a stop at their classroom during a Friday afternoon practice, however, we noticed something different, or should we say, someone different.
At the front of the room stood the program’s newest Choral Director, Adam Chandler. Clad in a denim jacket and jeans, he was breaking down the day’s agenda for his group of roughly 20 students.
At first glance, you would think Chandler and the students knew each other for a long time, as the two sides traded laughs and conversations… but you’d be wrong.
When we interviewed him, Chandler had only been at the helm for roughly two weeks, as he officially took over as Pal-Mac started its Spirit Week on Oct.3. He was hired back in August to fill the position left by former Director Kayla Osika, who left for another opportunity.
The group’s first performance with Chandler leading the way was during the singing of the National Anthem at the High School’s Pep Rally, just four days after he started.
“It’s been overwhelming, and not necessarily in a bad way,” Chandler said. “It’s just a lot of new things at one time.”
Chandler comes to Pal-Mac with about seven years of teaching experience. His most recent stint was with the nearby Victor Central School District, where he taught choir at the Elementary School level. Before then, he spent several years teaching at the Middle and High School levels at the Vernon Verona Sherrill Central School District, his hometown. He was also the advisor for the VVS High School Drama Club, and the director for the VVS High School Musical.
He says he made the switch back to teaching High School because that’s where his true passion lies. High School, after all, is where Chandler first really started singing in a choir, though his love for music goes back even further than that.
He sang in church choirs and was part of a regional community chorus called the Oneida Area Civic Chorale. Chandler then turned his passion for singing into a passion for teaching, when in May of 2016, he graduated from The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education.
At his core, Chandler says he loves the bonding aspect of a chorus over a more solo style of performance.
“There’s a big group of people who love to do the same thing,” Chandler said.”That drew me and almost more than the music did.”
Back to Pal-Mac, you can see the marks of his passion practically everywhere you look around the room. The walls are plastered with posters that promote messages of positive reinforcement and inclusion, among other messages. There are even smaller posters taped to the backs of the chairs the students are sitting on.
Chandler’s mark could also be found within the games the students were playing. You read that right, the students were playing games… But hear us out, there’s a purpose.
The students were playing a game called “Klumps,” where groups have a small amount of time to talk about a random topic of Chandler’s choosing. The catch is, everyone in a group has to get a chance to speak.
You may wonder what this has to do with singing in a chorus… According to Chandler, it has everything to do with it.
“[The students] have to know a little bit about each other to feel safe being so vulnerable and sharing something that is so deeply personal in front of other people,” Chandler said. “Especially for the people that they just kind of know and are necessarily friends with, you know that puts you in a vulnerable position to be putting yourself out there as a high schooler.”
Vulnerability is something Chandler says is helping him connect with the students, because he’s felt vulnerable, too, especially with switching schools.
He says he’s made it a point to be an “open book” with his students, meaning he’s not afraid to share his thoughts and feelings, but also being open to hearing how the group is feeling.
While he may share that openness, he did say there’s one thing most students don’t know about him. His love for country music. He cites artists like Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton, and Shania Twain as his favorites.
“You know if I turn on my radio in my vehicle, it’s always country all the time,” Chandler said. “It is very comforting to me because it reminds me of my family back home.”
Music preference aside, Chandler is also keeping an open book when it comes to helping shape the future of the High School’s music program. He says the students, along with Band Director Deb Davis, have been key players in helping him catch up on the program’s traditions, but also plan for new ideas.
“[They’ve been] Instrumental, if you will,” Chandler said with a smile.
While he’s still adjusting, he says he and Davis have talked about expanding the number of joint concerts between the band and choir, as well as adding in some new music styles.
Those ideas may be more for down the road, but Chandler says he’s ready to go along for the ride. He said he’s already learned how special Pal-Mac truly is.
“At first it was just a high school job, but I think as I’ve gotten to know the community and the school it’s definitely more than that,” Chandler said. “There’s just a good feeling about being here and working here with these kids and with this faculty.”
ure, there’s a new face in a new place, but if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed for Adam Chandler- or the select choir- it’s the passion for singing.