By: Taylor Ward
Photography: Noah Barajas
Many students involved in Center Grove’s performing arts program participate in behind-the-scenes preparation for productions, such as building sets, assembling risers and crafting costumes. But no student has ever helped with the actual creation of the show’s content, like writing scripts or arranging music…until now.
Wilson Smith, a junior, holds the distinction of being the first student at Center Grove to help arrange music for the choral program. Until this year, the sheet music for each song was put together by staff members. Now, Smith assists choir directors Jenn Dice and Jared Norman and the principle accompanist and arranger Greg Sanders with compositions.
“My job is to write the different voice parts for the choir,” Smith said. “I look at the melody line and try to figure out different harmony parts that support the melody line and create one really awesome sound.”
Smith helps arrange music for all of the high school choirs, including competition music, which is kept secret from choir members until the directors decide to reveal it. Despite this special knowledge, he is not involved in song selection.
“I just do what Mr. Sanders and/or Mrs. Dice tells me,” Smith said.
The process of arranging music is multi-layered, and requires preparation before it can really begin.
“The first step in arranging or rearranging a song is to create a roadmap. Basically, a roadmap is to an arrangement as an outline is to an essay. I try to put all of my ideas onto a piece of paper, organize them, and work from there,” Smith said.
As involved as he is in the process, Smith says that much of the arranging is still done by staff member Greg Sanders.
“I sort of serve as his apprentice,” Smith said. “I still have a lot more to learn about music theory.”
Smith says that his favorite piece to help arrange is Sound System’s second competition number, “The World Turned Upside Down,” a medley of songs from the Tony award winning Best Musical Hamilton.
Smith also holds another special distinction in the choral music program at Center Grove; he is the only student with “perfect pitch.” This allows him to immediately know how each pitch sounds, so he can give starting notes to the choir.
“It definitely makes it easier to arrange, read, and understand music,” Smith said about his ability.
The gift is rare. Some studies show that only one out of every ten thousand people hold the ability to hear pitches without error. Smith uses his gifts to assist the choir directors as best he can.