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Meet the Team: Amanda Chaval, Choral Director, Drama Teacher

We check in with Ms. Amanda Chaval, who joined GNS in September 2019. We learn how she got involved in choir, and about some of her favourite pieces of music. 
What made you want to join the GNS community? 

My first music teaching job in Mississauga, Ontario, was at a private school, and I loved the experience. I knew when I left that job (to move to Taiwan), I would always search for a position like that again. I worked a few years in SD61 and at Arts Calibre Academy, and then the opportunity presented itself. Pat Giommi used to work with my husband, and one day he texted me saying GNS was looking for a Choral Director. The rest is history! I love the community at GNS—the students, staff and parents. Especially my choir kids—they are so passionate and funny. We click and just bond over the joy of singing in choir.  

What is it about choir that you like? 

Everything! I am happiest when I am singing, and even happier singing in a group, which is choir. I love sharing music with people who love it as much as I do. I’ve always believed that choir is available to everyone, not just people who “can” sing. The most important part of choir is the “want” to sing. Younger kids have this already—their walls are down. When I give voice lessons to adults, it’s the opposite.The first few lessons are helping them accept that they’ve chosen to learn to sing and encouraging them to believe in themselves. That has to be there before you can teach the foundations and mechanics of singing.

How did you get interested in choir? 

I grew up in a musical family. My Grandpa and Mom were a big influence on me. My brother and I both began piano lessons when we were five years old. I didn’t really know what choir was until about Grade 5 when I had an awesome music teacher, Mrs. Beehman, who got me involved (elementary music teachers are so important!). At that time, I remember loving the poetic words of the songs; I wanted to be a writer. I played oboe and continued with piano growing up, and always sang in a choir. When you’re a singer, your voice is your instrument. I find that fascinating. It’s a hard instrument because it’s the only one you can’t see the inner workings of. It’s a lot of mind work. You have to visualise your vocal cords, larynx, pharynx; what your diaphragm is doing; feel your breath and resonance. Everything is connected to your body.

What is your favourite part of your day? 

So many parts! Ever since I became a music and theatre teacher, I just love that I get paid to sing, play piano and act like a goof on stage. What better job is there? I love performing. Of course, the students are what make our jobs amazing. I had such a great experience recently with the cast of the musical, Spamalot, being the Music Director. At the end of the show, all the students were thanking Ms. Smook, Ms. Coll and I for everything we did, and I was like “Us!? You are the ones who made this all so incredible!”

What are some of your interests outside of school? 

Travelling—anywhere. Crafts—handmade cards and scrapbooking. Reading fantasy books in the sun. Writing in my journal. Teaching piano lessons. Baking something delicious. Going on adventures outside with my husband. I sing with Pacific Opera Victoria and am the president of the Vancouver Island Chamber Choir. My musical pursuits fill me up. I love singing with inspiring musicians who are dedicated to refining their craft daily like me.

What is something most people don’t know about you? 

I don’t have a hometown. I grew up in Brussels, Belgium, and have lived in many places in Ontario and Quebec. My dad was a diplomat. In University, when I met my husband, that wandering lifestyle continued. We lived all over, including overseas in Taiwan. But now we are settled in Victoria and love it!

Is there a piece of music that you love playing, and why? 

Oh that’s hard! I love a lot of music, obviously. For piano—Felix Mendelssohn. For chamber choir—Franz Schubert. But of course, my choir students and I love singing all the fun pop and musical songs too—The Greatest Showman, Hamilton, Panic! At the Disco. When it comes to opera, anything by Mozart is amazing. Porgi Amor from The Marriage of Figaro is my favourite aria to perform.

How did you know teaching was the path you wanted to take? 

I always wanted to be a teacher. I love being around kids – they live in the moment. Especially in music and drama class, they are excited to be there and just want to have fun. That’s my natural demeanour so it just made sense to me.
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