The Red & Black
Student Life

Chamber Singers Win a Gold Medal at MICCA Choral Festival

On April 7th, the Winchester High School’s Chamber Singers competed in Westborough High School for MICCA’s Choral Festival. MICCA, more formally known as the Massachusetts Instrumental & Choral Conductors Association, is the most respected musical association in Massachusetts and is considered to be the most official of musical competitions. As such, hundreds of choral groups competed throughout the past two months, of which only eight were awarded a gold medal and the honor to perform at Symphony Hall.

Although the choir performed greatly, there was much anxiety on competition day, as some members of the choir felt as though the nerves and anxiety gave rise to a performance that was less than their full potential. However, after receiving the wonderful comments from esteemed adjudicators such as Dr. Stephen A. Paparo, the choir is more determined than ever to prepare for their command performance at Symphony Hall.

The program will begin at 8AM at Symphony Hall on May 4th, 2019, wherein the Winchester High School Chamber Singers are slotted to sing at 9:30AM.

How competitive are WHS students?

Take a walk around THE WHS when class isn’t in session, and you’ll see some familiar sights: students bragging about test grades, fussing over GPAs, and complaining loudly about the twelve tests they (somehow) have tomorrow and students worrying about moving on to the next round of their athletic tournament, preparing for standardized tests, undertaking the dreaded college application process, and everything in between. The dysfunction, stress and sleep deprivation is palpable.

It is no secret that many WHS students are uber-competitive and not just about grades. Between the academic whizzes, sports stars, and club officer extraordinaires, it seems that everyone tries to be the best at something. Students in general take on bigger workloads than they can handle in an effort to be the best student they can be (or at least maintain the appearance of one despite everything going up in flames). “Part of what's overwhelming about [the competitiveness] is the feeling that you're constantly trying but seemingly not enough,” says student Elysia Yuan. “It doesn't look like you're moving up in the ranks.”

Understandably, this competitiveness tends to skew towards students in Honors or AP classes. “I think it’s more of the ‘smart’ people competing,” says Honors Chemistry whiz Eric Tang. "In THE Winchester High School, many of the top students clash with each other, while bystanders watch the epic battles unfold.” High-achieving students, like those who take advanced courses, are generally more likely to stretch their reasonable limits. Other students are less inclined to overachieve and instead feel more or less content with their lives, an ability that many top students do not possess.

It isn’t just individual students that push themselves too hard (although personal experience says that many of those students exist). WHS has a long-standing culture of hyper-competitiveness, an issue that the school administration has long worked to address. Being a student at WHS, one of the top high schools in the state, comes with expectations of excellence from the town. With so many parents in Winchester working high-paying jobs and/or holding advanced degrees from prestigious universities, each incoming class is instilled with a drive to succeed (or to at least not bring dishonor upon the family name). Peer pressure and rivalries, especially in advanced classes, also serve to drive students harder.

On top of plain old competitiveness, the ever-present college questions loom over students’ heads. WHS students have historically been top candidates at elite colleges or likely hires for good jobs; they’ve been competitive in a real-world sense. Combining this with increasingly low admissions rates and pressure from peers and parents, students feel the need to push themselves harder -- often in ways that don’t represent them -- in order to make it into their top school or earn a full-ride scholarship. College weighs on nearly every student’s mind, whether they admit it or not.

Is all this competitiveness unhealthy? Probably. Although taking on Herculean amounts of extracurriculars is impressive, it often results in a game of one-upmanship over who slept the least last night due to the aforementioned work and puts a strain on students’ mental health. Students describe the feeling of competitiveness as “overwhelming.” “High school. Very competitive,” student Eimon Aung says. “It makes me wanna die sometimes, but it's all good.”

WHS faculty have worked to deal with this competitiveness. The guidance department increasingly takes on mental health roles, and teachers warn students every year to take on classes they can reasonably manage. Yet, many students keep taking all Honors courses and unnecessarily suffer anyway. All in all, WHS’s competitive culture will likely stick around for a long time.

I’m going to go study now.