Students left to adjust as half of music department is replaced


Delaney Fredricksen, Staff Writer

The new school year has come with a lot of changes, as half of the music department staff has been replaced and students are left to adjust to new teachers. 

Andrea Cooper and Mariah Chapdelaine were the previous directors of the choir department. Chapdelaine left somewhat abruptly, leaving the 150 choir students and over 100 show choir students, with an unexpected change they didn’t realize they’d have to deal with. 

In the middle of the summer, Cooper left as well to become a temporary administrator at BHS. With over 150 students in the choir program, all of them were left trying to adapt to new leadership. When Chapdelaine announced her plans to leave BHS, Chase Shoemaker, her replacement, came to meet some of the students from the choir program. After Cooper left, the district settled on Amber Mraz to fill her position.

Shoemaker and Mraz are both young teachers whose students took to them quickly.

 Shoemaker first attended Simpson University with a major in vocal performance but later changed his major to vocal education. He had almost gone into cardiovascular pediatrics but instead continued his teaching degree at Portland State University where he directed a choir for some years. Mraz attended Augustana College and also majored in vocal education, with a near minor in psychology. 

Both were extremely involved with music in their youth, Mraz while in high school was a part of choir, show choir, and theater, eventually becoming an Augustana choir member, where she toured with the program. 

Shoemaker has a similar experience, participating in choir and theater in high school, and directing choirs on the high school and collegiate levels. When entering an entirely new school district and department, their number one priority was their students. 

“Our hope was that we could make a real connection with our students, and from there we would be able to instruct better and more efficiently,” Shoemaker said. 

“We really just wanted to make sure the students knew they cared about them and that we were there for them,” Mraz said. 

Students definitely had a positive reaction to their new directors, Sola Lau (2024) said that even though Cooper and Chapdelaine’s departures were “out of nowhere” and “unexpected” she was excited to meet them. 

“I didn’t want to like them [Mraz and Shoemaker],” Lau said, “But they’ve been open and honest, and it just makes me so much more excited for this year”

 When asked about the extracurriculars Shoemaker and Mraz are involved in like theater and show choir, 

Tyler Fink (2024) says “Shomaker cared more about music or theater in general than our past director, and it was really evident in his passion”

 Fink added that while it was definitely an adjustment to get used to entirely new directors, he appreciates that they handled it extremely well.

 “A lot of people were unfairly upset with them,” Fink said, “But once they got used to the teachers, class time was really fun” 

“[Shoemaker] is very open about his personal struggles. But he still shows up every day,” Fink says. Shoemaker and Mraz have shown how much they care not only about the students’ well-being but also about their success.

 “They actually wanted to make us better, and they cared enough to watch and comment on what we need to improve on,” Lau said.

 “They don’t shy away from difficult topics or music, and it really does make us better as a group,” Fink said. Shoemaker and Mraz have said that now that they feel they’ve built a connection with their students, their next goal in the words of Mraz, is to “improve, improve, improve”  

“We have a strong group of students and we know they can go far,” Mraz says. While it was difficult for them to adjust to a completely new environment, Shoemaker and Mraz are excited for the upcoming year and believe the BHS choir department will do amazing things.