The challenges of a choral commitment

At 7:30 a.m., the music begins.

For Monica Bertrand, a senior from St. Charles studying music education, the last note does not hit until well after the sun sets.

Bertrand begins each day by assisting Carlyn Zimmermann, choir director of Carbondale Community High School.


Bertrand said she is not required to volunteer at the high school for her degree but does so to get a better understanding of how a high school choir is taught.

After volunteering, Bertrand goes to the School of Music, where she practices piano for a couple of hours before her vocal lessons.  Afterwards, she practices for a few more hours, attends class, practices again and then teaches private lessons before going home to eat.


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On many nights, Bertrand returns to the school after dinner to practice some more.

“I usually practice about six hours a day,” Bertrand said.

Although she is specializing in vocals, Bertrand is also studying piano this year to expand her abilities as a choral teacher.

According to Jeanine F. Wagner, director of the School of Music, Bertrand is in one of the three most difficult majors at the school.

“It is not uncommon for students to practice five hours a night, every night, for weeks before a performance,” Wagner said.

This level of commitment is normal for students in the School of Music, Wagner said. Between ensembles and chamber groups, lessons and practice, each student must find his or her own way to deal with the obstacles every day presents.

For Bertrand, the last note hits just before her eyes close, only to start again in a few hours, on a new day, with a new set of challenges to face.

Photos and story by: Pat Sutphin