Community Voices Unite Through Song

One big family. To this day, that’s how Sam Appiah ’12 sees the Masters community. 

When Appiah was in middle school, he remembers “forming relationships with various upper school students via just walking on the quad” and “playing ping pong and pool with various faculty members during free periods and after school.” Those special ties and his love of music have brought him back to 49 Clinton Avenue as the director of the newly formed Masters Justice Choir.

With chapters across the country, Justice Choir is an organization whose mission is to bring communities together by singing while also drawing attention to issues on people’s minds. Appiah cites examples like “social justice, the need for more love to be expressed between people, standing up to oppression.”

Putting together a Masters offshoot was the brainchild of Jen Carnevale, the chair of the Department of Performing Arts. “I’ve always believed that the joy and spirit of a gospel choir would suit the ethos of Masters. The stumbling block had been the specific focus and purpose of gospel which is Christian exclusively,” she explained. “Through a professional development experience in spring 2020, I discovered the notion and practice of a Justice Choir. Same vibe, spirit, and joy but shifting the purpose from sacred to secular transcendence.”

She brought in Appiah, who worked as the music director for the gospel choir at LaGuardia High School for the past five years. Performing arts teacher Barbara Ciannella was added as co-director. “It is a grassroots movement to engage in the empathetic, collaborative, and collective power of singing together to create change,” Ciannella said. 

With a couple of rehearsals behind them, there are about 35 members made up of students, faculty and staff who are ready to sing their hearts out. Caleb Jakes ‘22 is glad to be a part of it. “The energy that Mr. Appiah and Ms. Ciannella bring to this group is unmatched,” he said. “They are so willing to help and really are coming together to make this choir something that is meaningful and powerful and I received that vibe on the first day!”

All choir rehearsals are remote until it is safe to have them in person. Appiah encourages all those interested to join them on this journey. “I’m honored to co-spearhead, along with Barbara Ciannella, something that will add to the musical legacy of the School.”

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