WMS choirs, 250 strong, to perform this week

WORTHINGTON -- It's her baby, all right. Nearly nine months in the making, with a good share of growing pains and changes taking place during that period, the annual concert of the Worthington Middle School (WMS) choral students is unquestionably...

WORTHINGTON -- It's her baby, all right.

Nearly nine months in the making, with a good share of growing pains and changes taking place during that period, the annual concert of the Worthington Middle School (WMS) choral students is unquestionably a major production -- and one that choir director Cindy Anderson does not hesitate to compare to a pregnancy.

"It's basically a labor of love," said Anderson, who is capping 20 years of teaching this spring. "The concert is like a pregnancy, because you're excited for people to hear it, but you're also excited for it to be done.

"And while you're in the labor of it all, you think, 'How can I do this?' Then, it's over and you think, aw, that wasn't so bad," Anderson continued. "I hope the audience appreciates the time and effort that goes into it, because the kids have worked really hard."

Featuring 250 sixth- through eighth-grade students, this year's performance will take place at 7 p.m. both Thursday and Friday. In accordance with tradition, the site is Worthington's Memorial Auditorium.


"I'm so glad we can still have the concert there, because the auditorium is such a wonderful facility," Anderson said. "It's terrific, with the staging, the lights and the sound.

"I've just carried on what Ginger Selberg (the longtime Worthington junior high choir director Anderson succeeded) started, and having Ginger's grandchildren as students over the years has been kind of a treat."

Three grade-level choirs will entertain, along with seven smaller ensembles. Song selections range from the Latin "Festival Sanctus," sung by the eighth-grade choir, to "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," the theme song from "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," styled by the sixth-graders.

Another noteworthy piece to be vocalized by the seventh-grade choir is "We Belong," which is introduced by students speaking in seven languages.

"That song's message is about how it doesn't matter where you come from or what your ethnic background is -- we all belong in the world's family," explained Anderson, who has taught thousands of Worthington's diverse students in her years as the WMS choir director and general music teacher.

Anderson earned a bachelor's degree in K-12 vocal music education at Moorhead State University and began work at what was then Worthington Area Junior High School in the fall of 1987. Other than one year spent teaching in the Twin Cities area -- just after marrying her husband, Duane -- Anderson's career has been spent in Worthington. She was named the District 518 Teacher of the Year in 2000.

"Mrs. Anderson is awesome with kids," confirmed Connor Tripp, a former choir student of Anderson's who is now a high school junior. "She always had a big smile on her face and was so positive it made me want to be really good."

Tripp remains active in music. He plays drums in the local band, Forever Waiting, is a percussionist in the Worthington High School (WHS) band and lends his baritone voice to Trojan Express, the WHS Concert Choir and Vox.


"I think Mrs. Anderson had the biggest influence on making me want to stay involved in choir," acknowledged Tripp, who fondly remembers his own middle school spring choir concerts and the chance he had to dress up in a "powder blue tux" to sing "Build Me Up, Buttercup" in a boys' ensemble. "I try to get to the concerts every year because it's always so much fun."

Anderson returns the love, remaining as enthusiastic about teaching 11- to 14-year-olds today as she was when she began in 1987.

"When someone asks me what I teach and starts to offer their condolences, all I can say is there isn't any place I'd rather be," Anderson admitted. "My heart is at the middle school. Kids that age need someone who loves them and accepts them just as they are, and we are lucky to have a lot of teachers in our district who do.

"I like the students' energy, their continued sense of wonder, and I laugh every day because they crack me up," Anderson said. "That's just a gift."

Despite the many logistical details Anderson must conquer to prepare 250 to 300 students for an annual concert at a location outside their own building, she said her biggest challenge has nothing to do with risers, backstage handlers or microphones.

"It's keeping the kids energized, so they peak at the right time," Anderson confided. "I never want them to have their best performance in the choir room, with only me to hear them.

"I always tell them that when they get on that stage, it's all or nothing. You don't want to have any regrets about not having done your best."

Anderson promises this year's concert will be as entertaining as ever, with "all kinds of really fun ensemble pieces and a few surprises here and there."


"Music is my passion, and I get to share that every day," Anderson affirmed. "I love having these students in choir, not necessarily because I want them all to go on and become professional musicians, but because I want them to be better human beings.

The Worthington Middle School choir concert will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Memorial Auditorium. An admission fee is payable at the door; District 518 activity passes are also honored.

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