Take a passion for making music, add dedication, and sprinkle with plenty of energy and enthusiasm and the result is the magic of Crimson and Slate a cappella choral group of Cheyenne Mountain High School.
A Cappella — or, “without instrumental accompaniment” — creates a unique sound where voices, including vocal percussion, blend to make the music. Unique vocal arrangements and lively choreography create a vibrant magnetism.
The enthusiasm of Crimson and Slate is electric. “We’re all here because music brings you together with connecting through songs and performing together,” said student Ally Quadhamer.
Lexi Carlson added: “We have a strong friendship and dynamic personal feelings as a group.”
Collectively, the group agreed they operate as a close unit where they feel welcomed and accepted.
And Director Dawn Wisdom is obviously admired and respected by the C&S teens.
“She pushes me to be the best I can be,” said Logan Sheeks.
Quadhamer agreed. “We learn a lot of life skills, such as how to work with others in a close environment, learn time management skills, and benefit from coaching.”
Crimson and Slate members offer advice for peers interested in joining the group: Dedication is key; be prepared; and don’t take the experience lightly. Prospective singers will never know if they’ll be accepted unless they try, and those who don’t make it the first time they audition are encouraged to try again. Be willing to learn, work hard, take criticism and use it to grow. Ask what you can bring to the group, and prepare to be a part of something worthwhile. Being a member of Crimson and Slate requires a large time commitment, but the rewards are tremendous, members say.
“It makes us better,” Sheeks said.
In March, the group will travel to Hawaii to participate in the Aloha State Choral Festival, a valuable opportunity, they say, to witness a different culture, experience diversity, benefit from travel, and see what other groups are doing.
Deke Sharon, who developed the Pitch Perfect movies and “The Singoff” television show, will take an active part in the festival. Activities will also include visiting Pearl Harbor, snorkeling and attending a luau. Expenses are covered by fundraising, summer jobs, and supportive parents.
As director, Wisdom is optimistic the District 12 Board of Education will continue to support travel experiences for school groups. She feels it is “a magical experience for students to step out of the Colorado Springs bubble and have opportunities to give back to others. Kids come back home feeling incredible.”
Wisdom recalled taking a CMHS choral group to Washington D.C. where they spontaneously began singing at the Reflecting Pool, eliciting an exuberant response from bystanders. “I don’t want to see experiences such as this go away,” Wisdom said. “I’m interested in finding the absolute best musical experience for the group.”
Crimson and Slate holds the record for competing in the national competition finals of the International Championship of High School A Cappella 10 times. Three years ago, Wisdom combined the then-separate groups Crimson (all female) and Slate (all male) into one, and knows it was the right move.
“The mixed voices add depth to the full range of sounds,” said Crimson and Slate member Caitlyn Lamb. “It’s really challenging and ridiculous fun.”