Patterson Choir Takes State Stage

State honor choir performs on huge stage
By: Todd Martin
SAN ANTONIO - Thirty-two seventh- and eighth-grade boys in black and white suits walked in a line onto the ballroom stage confidently following their beloved, celebrated director.
As they made their way onto the risers at the Texas Music Educators Association convention stage in downtown San Antonio Friday, the audience listened to the introduction of Patterson Middle School choir director Gerald Nicholas.
Now in his sixth year teaching, Nicholas attended Killeen ISD from kindergarten through graduation from Shoemaker High School. After college, he chose to return home to become a colleague among his own mentors.
As his varsity boys’ choir, a state honor choir this year, performed seven selections, it was Shoemaker choir director Stephen Barrick on stage providing accompaniment, re-joining his former student on the biggest scholastic choir stage in Texas.
When Nicholas began considering applying for the honor choir status a year ago, it was his girls’ choir he first considered, but the boys improved so dramatically that he decided to submit them for the high honor.
The result was an unlikely and beautiful conclusion – a young director, nurtured along from middle school on into his career, earning a distinction that many don’t receive in a decades-long career with a group of middle school boys who would follow him anywhere.
They sang seven pieces to the delight of the large audience at the 100th annual gathering of the TMEA. The songs followed the cycle of life from love to death to melancholy to redemption to moving forward.
Proud of his boys and gratified by the support from colleagues, Nicholas said the initial nerves of taking the prestigious stage drifted away in the choir’s performance. “I hope they take away from this the huge support they have here,” he said.
“I’m in awe,” said Patterson Principal Latisha Williams, part of the audience watching the choir’s performance. While she had heard the group sing many times, it was the first time she witnessed the whole 18-minute program. “Wow. They were men on that stage today.”
For the 20-year Shoemaker choir director the moment was another kind of pride. “They are my grand choir kids,” he said of the honored Patterson group. “The kids love him. They perform for him.”
This year’s state honor choir is the first from KISD in 20 years and just the fourth in district history.
The submission for consideration requires three years’ worth of performances, meaning former choir students now in ninth and 10th grade share the high honor with this year’s returning Patterson choir students.
Choir is on the rise at Patterson, where about 100 boys participate in the 265-student program. The boys said it is their patient, caring mentor and a tight-knit familial bond that distinguishes their group.
“We’re like a family,” said eighth-grader Edgar Diaz.
The family leader is a young director they call “Mr. Nic.”
“We definitely love him,” said Diaz. “I didn’t realize at first how great he was. He made it seem so easy. He puts in the time to make sure we are in tip-top shape.”
“Mr. Nic is special in the way he teaches,” said eighth-grader Corahn Evans. “He is so involved. He has a passion for it.”
“Mr. Nic teaches us to read music, not just repeat songs,” said eighth-grader Diego Coleman.
The students have worked since the start of the school year on their state convention program and received instruction from outside clinicians to hone their harmonic sound.
“It was an honor,” said Coleman. “Of all the middle schools in Texas, we were chosen. I think our choir has a lot of heart.”
“It was a surreal experience,” Evans said. “It was a cool experience to see all the work we did come together.”
“It was a cool experience to see how many people supported us,” said Diaz. “It was really special – a once in a lifetime experience.”