PUSD choir programs present joint performance at Petco Park


As Padres’ and Diamondbacks’ fans passed left and right, the voices of PUSD choir students, rehearsing for their upcoming performance of the Star Spangled Banner, temporarily interrupted the buzz of the crowd at the corner of Tony Gwyn Dr. and Park Blvd.

“We were literally rehearsing the Anthem from the street standing between the stadium and the convention center,” Westview Choir director Daniel Moyer said.

“There were folks who were there for the game on a balcony from the stadium overlooking [where we were practicing] that heard us and every time we hit the last note, they would cheer and say, ‘Yeah play ball!’”

Several minutes later, the choir and the four other PUSD high school choir programs entered Petco Park and performed  “The Star Spangled Banner” prior the start of  the Sept. 20 Padres game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

According to Moyer, the choir initially agreed this summer to participate in this performance alongside the other PUSD choir students after the PUSD choir directors approached him with the opportunity.

“This [opportunity] was something I actually learned of because I’m new and just arrived this year,” Moyer said. “So I came late to the planning process but once I was in the picture, I [was] looped into the performance and chatted with the events coordinator.”

In preparation for the performance, all five PUSD high schools only rehearsed the arrangement together once during a rehearsal for the Mozart Requiem, a separate performance the five schools will execute together in January.

During said rehearsal, Marti Martinez, Mt. Carmel’s Choir director, who was chosen to conduct the performance, established the specifics for the arrangement so each separate choir program could continue to practice the piece as individual schools.

Alexis Olaes (12), who has participated in choir going on four years, said that although Westview Choir performed the national anthem at a Padres game her freshman year, this year’s performance proved to be a more nerve-racking experience, especially in the days and final moments prior to the performance.

“Freshman year, I sang the National Anthem with choir but it was really different because we sang with a bunch of middle-school choirs,” Olaes said. “This year our arrangement was more difficult so [everyone was] more nervous to mess it up.”

Following the combined PUSD choir rehearsal, Westview Choir was afforded several additional opportunities to practice the exact arrangement prior to the ball game itself: once, during Westview’s back to school night, and a second time at the conclusion of the choir retreat a few days before the final performance.

In the moments leading up to the performance, the choir students and directors were instructed to line up on Petco’s warning track.

However, as the scheduled performance time rapidly approached, and the event managers had specifically instructed that the students not step onto the field, Moyer said that worry sprung among the choir directors as to whether their students would actually be allowed to step foot onto the green.

“[Later we found out that] the event managers just wanted us to be in position before we walked on the grass,” Moyer said. “We were worried that the students wouldn’t even get to stand on the grass, but we got close to second base on the grass, fortunately.”

According to Olaes, several of the PUSD choir directors, especially Martinez, made active efforts to encourage the students to relax, smile, and simply focus on enjoying their performance.

“Before we started [Mrs. Martinez] ran and high-fived everyone standing in the first row to hype everyone up, and it was really funny because we were in front of a crowd of people on the field and we were supposed to be professional,” Olaes said. “She did that to remind us to enjoy the moment and to have fun with it because it is not every day that we get to perform in front of that many people.”

Reflecting back on the performance, Olaes said she found the collaborative aspect of their performance to be a particularly valuable experience, especially since she is more accustomed to performing in smaller groups.

“I think what we benefited from the most was working with an enormous choir,” Olaes said. “We combined with the other advanced choirs in the school district, which was over 150 people, and it was really interesting to sing with that many people in front of such a big audience. At Westview, we’re used to singing with about 30 people so it was really cool to meet other singers from different schools.”