“It is extremely rewarding as a teacher to be able to delve deep into the study of music with students who are extremely passionate about their work,” said Eleni Pantages, the vocal musical director at San Marcos High School. The madrigal singers’ dedication was rewarded recently when they earned top scores at the prestigious WorldStrides Festival of Gold in March. The event is a national, invitation-only music competition, during which students get a private clinic with Dr. Craig Jessop, a former conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It’s a feather in Pantages’s cap, as this is her first year as vocal director. Below, Pantages answered a few questions about what it takes to be part of a competition like the Festival of Gold.
While the Madrigals perform regularly in the community, the Festival of Gold is “an extremely rigorous competition requiring a lot of detailed preparation,” Pantages explained, so it was the only competition they participated in this year. To be named top group, the singers must be exacting in their vocal execution, so they devote an impressive amount of time to practicing. “The Madrigals dedicate 90 minutes of every school day to rehearsing as an ensemble,” said Pantages. “During our time together, we study vocal technique, music theory, history, and traditional performance practice of all the different time periods from which our repertoire originated. We work on pitch and rhythmic accuracy, tone quality, pronunciation, dynamics, expression, and unification of our sound.”
For Pantages, being at San Marcos is life come full circle — she was a student in the program many years ago. “[I] sang with the Madrigals my junior and senior year in high school,” she said. “I am thrilled to be back to continue the tradition of excellence I experienced when I was a student.”
Hear the San Marcos High School Madrigals perform Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein at UCSB Chamber Singers’ spring concert on Friday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church (1550 State St.). See music.ucsb.edu.