January 25, 2019

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

A special choir ‘sounds like angels singing for God’

Jennifer Cazares, Waldo Tapia and Lance Gratner have taken the initiative to lead the student choir and musicians during the weekly school Mass for students at St. Anthony School in Indianapolis. (Submitted photo)

Jennifer Cazares, Waldo Tapia and Lance Gratner have taken the initiative to lead the student choir and musicians during the weekly school Mass for students at St. Anthony School in Indianapolis. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Cindy Greer was on the verge of tears the first time she witnessed what the students had done.

Her appreciation has only grown five months later for the school children’s initiative, talents and faith.

“I almost cried the first week because it was so amazing,” says Greer, the principal of St. Anthony School in Indianapolis. “Their leadership and ownership have been great to see. And they’re really good.”

The special scene began at the start of the school year in early August when the school’s part-time music teacher had a commitment that wouldn’t allow her to be there for the weekly school Mass on Wednesday mornings. So seventh-grader Waldo Tapia took it upon himself to provide the music.

Waldo enlisted five of his female classmates who love to sing, and he set up a practice 45 minutes before school began that day. Then at the Mass, he strapped on his guitar and joined the girls in leading their schoolmates in songs that echoed with joy throughout the church.

The scene was so cool and contagious that fellow seventh-grader Lance Gratner brought his drums the next week, and soon sixth-grader Jennifer Cazares was playing the piano, and then students from kindergarten through the upper grades clamored to join the choir. Waldo, Lance and Jennifer welcomed them all, as long as they were willing to attend the practices.

Now, there are usually about 25 students in the choir at the school Mass, and a trombone player, a bass guitarist and two violinists have been added. The musicians have an extra practice each week.

“I was expecting a couple of kids to do it,” says Lance, who came up with the idea of expanding the choir. “I did not think we’d have this many people! A lot of the kids are little. We used to be little, too, so we understand them. We tell them, ‘OK, you have to practice.’ ”

Waldo nods and adds, “We created this atmosphere of being friendly because we’re all friendly here. I don’t care what grade they’re in. If they’re younger kids, they’ll eventually lead the choir. I want to give them the chance to lead.”

The three leaders of the group especially note the singing of the second‑grade students, whom they view as an extra section of the choir because they sing so loud and they’re seated right near the choir at Mass.

“It gets me happy when I hear them sing,” Jennifer says, flashing a smile.

Greer is also all smiles when she thinks of the group.

“They took this on themselves,” says the principal of the Notre Dame ACE Academy school. “For them to be so dedicated and committed is amazing.”

Waldo just sees it all as an extension of the faith and the music that adds so much joy to his life.

“Ever since I was a small kid, I’ve loved to go to Mass,” says Waldo, who is 13 and from a musical family, just as Lance and Jennifer are. “The music is one of the most important things at Mass for me. I always like the Mass at school because it sounds like joy. The choir sounds like angels singing for God. That’s what I hear.” †

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