High School Program Spotlight : Benet Academy

High School Program Spotlight : Benet Academy

Program Spotlights

CS Music is highlighting unique and impactful high schools, universities, summer programs, young artist programs, and other organizations that help singers. If you want us to highlight your program, email Mary Taylor at mary@csmusic.net.

Benet Academy

Lisle, IL

Choral Director: Brian Wand
# of Students:
Subjects Taught: Choir, Chorus, Chorale, and Madrigals

What would you say makes your program stand out or is considered unique?
Part of what makes our program special is that the students truly love to perform. They are hard working, talented students who love making music together. We are not a performing arts conservatory, so most of our students are working to get into colleges and universities for majors other than the Arts. We have several every year that will continue as a major, but the majority of the students sing because of the challenge and joy it brings them.

About Benet Academy

Benet Academy is a Catholic, College Prep School in the suburbs of Chicago. The school has 4 levels of Choir: Freshman Choir, Sophomore Chorus, Concert Chorale (Jr.&Sr) and Madrigal Singers (auditioned Jr.&Sr.). All Groups are open to any interested student with Madrigal Singers being by audition. The choirs all meet during the day for a grade and credit in the GPA, but they are on an alternating (half-time) schedule. The choirs give 4 concerts each year: Fall, Christmas, Winter, & Spring; roughly every 6 to 9 weeks. We perform age-appropriate literature in all genres from strong junior high 3-part music to collegiate level repertoire. The Madrigal Singers additionally host a Madrigal Dinner and perform at many events in the area in the Christmas Season. The Concert Chorale and Madrigal Singers have toured internationally to Spain, Czech Republic, Austria, England, Scotland, Italy, & Quebec. We look forward to traveling again soon.

How do you get your students more involved in the program?

I try to give the students room to be the singer they are, not the singer I want them to be. I try to meet them where they are in their vocal experience and give them opportunities to bring them along. Some students have been singing formally their whole school career, some are trying choir for the first time; but they all have the same opportunity to grow in their own way. I believe that creating the safe space where they feel they are contributing to, and an essential part of the ensemble is key to the success of the program.

What are you most proud of about your program?

I am most proud that my students feel joy in performing and understand that even if they are not pursuing Music in College, they can be life-long participants in many ways.

Do you have any special traditions?

Some of the traditions we have are closing every concert with our school’s Alma Mater and honoring our seniors with a performance of Irish Blessing every year. Other than that, there isn’t anything other than our rehearsals and performances.

Has your program participated in any competitions, performances, or special activities? If so, tell us about the experience, including accolades or awards.

Your program is the first competition we have participated in for many years. In 2009, 2010 & 2011, the Madrigal Singers worked with composer, Nancy Galbraith and premiered her work Lumen Christi and other works as part of a charity concert series for school children in Palestine & Israel. The Madrigal Singers also do outreach performances with the Pediatric Oncology patients at a local hospital. They also perform every year in Chicago for the opening night of The Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre.

At the 2022 CS Music Showcase.

If there was one thing you’d like to learn from other teachers across the country, what would it be?

I enjoy talking with other teachers about their programs and discovering the creative ways we all handle the same issues. I have learned some really great and simple tricks from colleagues I meet at conferences and festivals. I always get excited to return home and try them with my students.

Finally, if there was one thing you’d like to see accomplished within your program, what would it be?
I’m not sure. I’ve been teaching for 32 years (20 at Benet Academy) and I am proud of the growth, stability, and consistency of the program. At this point, I’m starting to think about how to make sure the program is ready to hand off to someone more talented and creative than I am, because the important thing is the experience the students receive. Their feeling of success and value is the most important thing.

At the 2022 CS Music Showcase.

CS Music Staff

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