Choral Director / Randy VanWingerden
Choral Director / Candice Systma
In all of the choirs here at GRCHS we seek to praise God with the gifts He has given us. In addition we foster a love of good choral music, and develop life skills that enable singers to continue using their talents well after high school.
The Choral Music program at Grand Rapids Christian HS consists of three choirs that meet every day - Chamber Chorale, A Cappella Men, and A Cappella Women. All of the choirs perform in our major concerts of the year: a Fall Concert: "Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs”; “A Christmas Celebration”; and a Spring Concert with a different theme each year. In addition to our concerts, all of our choirs participate in District Choir Festival in February where they have consistently earned mostly Superior ratings. Those that receive Superior ratings typically go on to State Choir Festival in May. In the last few years all of our groups have qualified for State Choir Festival and those that have gone have come away with Superior ratings and perfect or nearly perfect scores.
A Cappella Women is open to all high school girls. In this choir we work at building the foundation of good choral singing by devoting time to: developing a healthy, supported, free of tension choral tone; the study of theory; sight reading using the Solfege moveable “Do” system; proper breathing techniques. This choir performs music in three and four parts.
A Cappella Men is open to all high school men. The goals and objectives are similar to the women’s group but we also focus on issues specific to the male voice.
These two groups combine in concerts to form A Cappella, a mixed choir with a rich tradition at GRCHS. This choir does not limit its repertoire to a-cappella music but does focus on music suitable for larger choirs from the master composers to Broadway and Spirituals.
Chamber Chorale is a smaller, select ensemble of juniors and seniors. Membership is by audition only. This choir averages 25-30 performances a year that include participation in church services, singing for community groups, school assemblies, etc. This group has received many awards for excellence. Some highlights: in 2006 and 2010 they received a perfect score from all three judges at Michigan School Vocal Music Association State Choir Festival; in 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2012 the group was selected through a blind audition to perform at the Michigan Youth Arts Festival as one of two “Outstanding Choirs” in the State of Michigan; in 2009 the Chamber Chorale was selected to perform at the Michigan Music Conference.
Randall Van Wingerden has been the choir director at GRCHS since 2005 where he also is the music director for the school musicals. Mr. Van Wingerden attended Wayne State University for two years then transferred to Calvin College where he received a Bachelor of Music Degree in K-12 Vocal Music Education in 1977, and a Master of Arts in Teaching Degree from Calvin College in 1990. Randy has taught 7-12 vocal and general music at Eastern Christian Schools in North Haledon, New Jersey- 1977-80; Calvin Christian High School and Middle School in Grandville, Michigan- 1980-2005. In addition to choirs and general music at Calvin Christian, Mr. Van Wingerden taught middle school keyboarding and high school American History, co-directed the musicals, as well as coached baseball and softball.
Choirs under his direction, at both middle school and high school levels, have consistently received Excellent and Superior ratings at District and State Choir Festivals.
Since 1988 Mr. Van Wingerden has been a member of the Calvin College Alumni Choir under conductors Anton Armstrong, Charles Smith and presently Pearl Shangkuan. Since 1993 he has also been the assistant conductor of this group. Since 2008 Randy has been the assistant conductor of the Calvin College Oratorio Society.
Mr. Van Wingerden has served the Michigan School Vocal Music Association in a variety of capacities; four years as District 10 Manager, three years as high school Region A/SSAA Honors Choir manager, two years as high school Honors Choir Coordinator, and is in his twelve years as Executive Board Director of Honors Choirs. In 1997 he was elected by his piers to conduct the 7-8-9 SATB State Honors Choir, and in 2007 the 7-8-9 SSA State Honors Choir.
Candice Sytsma grew up in California, attending Valley Christian High School and Chapman University. She married her husband Tom, a Byron Center native, and moved to Grand Rapids in 2009. She then attended Grand Valley to obtain her education credentials. Candice student taught with Mr. Van Wingerden and was hired to accompany some of the high school choirs and teach in GRC Middle School where she has taught General Music/Choir in grades 5 and 6, and choir for 7th&8th grade girls. She now directs both of the A Cappella ensembles. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Music Education from Western Michigan University, to be completed in 2016.