Voices United: Tustin Unified fifth-grade honor choir celebrates resilience during a challenging year

While looking back at graduations, celebrations and promotions from across the county, OCDE Newsroom staff recently came across a video featuring a chorus of young voices from the Tustin Unified School District.

As we listened to the choir sing the lyrics “Move along to the song singing in your soul, feel the beat, clap your hands, let it take control,” we couldn’t help but realize that despite the challenges of a non-traditional school year, one thing has remained the same — the show must go on.

The honor choir — fittingly named Voices United — is composed of fifth-grade students from every school in Tustin Unified, and for nearly 16 months, they’ve performed 100 percent virtually. On May 24, they released their production of the song “A Walk through Life” by Pink Zebra.

To learn more about the choir and what went into producing a virtual performance of this caliber, we talked with Tustin Unified music teacher Victoria “Vici” Cope, who says the love of music and music-making has continued to keep educators and students motivated throughout the past year.

“The song was selected to celebrate the resilience, patience and enthusiasm of our students and teachers throughout this challenging year,” said Cope. “We hope it speaks to all of the power music has to keep us going through the toughest times.”

Cope, who is one of the district’s nine elementary music teachers, says while the team faced extra challenges being 100 percent virtual they found solutions through Google Meet and digital platforms to teach the song to over 100 TUSD fifth-graders, their largest choir yet.

And with help from the district, the entire production came together because of team work. Cope, along with elementary music team members Susan Martin, Jamie Spehar, Karla Delgado and Kim Nguyen served as co-conductors; Richard Lueras worked on sound editing; and Phil Jones video editing.

“With their music teachers’ guidance, students recorded themselves singing the song we had rehearsed together in person and submitted it to our team online,” Cope explained. “Despite all obstacles, nothing was able to stop our Tustin Unified students and teachers from sharing the power of song.”

As everyone eagerly anticipates a “new normal” in music education and society overall, Cope is also looking ahead to the creativity these unusual times will likely inspire.

“Technology has helped us be together, and also to make and share music with our community. In 10 years, I will be excited to look back at what’s come out of the pandemic; I’m certain it has only made us stronger.”