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Students were political canvassers, escape room artists, physicists, fashionistas, inventors, thought leaders, collaborators, activists, change agents, and boat builders, among many other identities, during Project Week 2019.

Q&A with Samantha Burak '20

In January, junior Balladeer and Glee Club member Samantha Burak '20 was invited to audition for the New Jersey Association for Jazz Education (NJAJE) Region II Jazz Choir. A few weeks ago, she learned that she was one of nine singers selected for the ensemble, which will perform in concert on Sunday, April 7. "It's an honor to represent Pingry and the School's vocal program at this performance," Samantha says. Find out more details below!

How did you learn about this jazz choir?
Mr. Winston always tells [Balladeers members] about different audition opportunities, and this one sparked my interest because it's jazz. I've done jazz pieces with other choirs before but I've never auditioned for or performed with a jazz choir specifically. So far, I've found it to be very exciting!

What was the audition process like?
In February, I had to send in a video audition—I sang some scales and recorded myself singing two solo pieces with accompaniment, one of which included scat singing. I found out in March that I was accepted.

Of the four pieces the ensemble is preparing, which would you say is proving the most challenging to learn?
We're rehearsing "If I Only Had a Brain" from The Wizard of Oz, "The Gospel of John Hurt," "More!," and "Take Five." Some are definitely more complex than others. "Take Five" has a good amount of scat syllables, which makes it the most difficult. Scatting is all about feeling the music, being in the moment, and trying to imitate jazz instruments with your voice. You have to make the notes you choose fit well with the chord being played. It's basically vocal improv.

How long have you been singing?
Since elementary school. I performed in musicals in elementary and middle school—one of my favorite moments was playing one of the leading roles, Hermia, in Pingry's 2016 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. [Samantha came to Pingry in Grade 5.]  I was a member of the Middle School Girls' Chorus, and then in Grade 8, I started taking private voice lessons. I've been a Glee Club member since my freshman year, participated in the Upper School musical the last two years, and, just this year, joined the New Jersey Youth Chorus. I've also been enjoying my first year with the Balladeers. I would really like to continue singing with an a cappella group in college, as well as with choirs. I have always really liked to sing genres of all kinds, from musical theater and classical pieces to a cappella. It's something fun that I do—a break from the school day. Music is so powerful and there are so many ways you can express yourself through it.

In what ways has Pingry helped you to develop your interest in the vocal arts?
I'm grateful that I get to explore my interest in voice through the many programs that Pingry offers, from Glee Club to Balladeers to the musical. I also really appreciate that Pingry has a female a cappella group and that they create multiple performance opportunities for us throughout the year. Even though I've only been a member of the group for one year, Balladeers is always one of the highlights of my day, and I feel so lucky to be a part of that amazing group of singers. I'm also thankful for Mr. Winston's encouragement, support, advice on vocal technique, and more. He's dedicated to us 24/7.

Concert details: The NJAJE Region II  Jazz Choir, under the direction of Mr. Randy White, will perform on Sunday, April 7 at 3:00 p.m. at the Rahway High School Performing Arts Center (1012 Madison Avenue, in Rahway).

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer,