Choral Commitments: When Art and Competition Face Head to Head


What is art? Even scholars of the topic itself have found it difficult to define the term overall. When boiled down to its most straightforward definition, art can be considered “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” This definition is vast in nature, encompassing a range of activities. 

Many of these activities walk on the fine line between art and pure competition. Certain forms of performance art, like dance or figure skating, find themselves as the juxtaposition of sports and performance. The two coincide to a certain degree, yet when art is limited to the need to compete and achieve a certain goal, does it shed some of its creative freedom that fuels it as a concept? 

At Manchester High School, one of the most competitive forms of art is choir. Emma Thomsen, a senior who has been involved in choir since her freshman year, explains how she balances the artistic aspects of the choir with its competitions. 

Originally I joined choir because of my passion for singing, but has since grown into a huge commitment,” she said.

Over her time at MHS, Thomsen has explored a variety of choirs. “I’ve auditioned and have been a part of Roundtable Singers and the Jazz Choir for 3 years now, and have also auditioned for the CMEA Regionals and All-State Choirs, which I’ve participated in for 3 years as well,” she said.  

As for what spurred her interest in taking her love for singing to the next level, Emma explains, “I’ve found that with the particular curriculum we’re taught in chorus class, it has piqued my interest in music and singing greatly, and opened my eyes to the world of classical music.”

Establishing involvement in something as intense as choir, along with a lifelong love for singing is a unique place for an artist. Taking a generally free passion and fitting it into the strict conforms of competition has brought up some struggles for Thomsen. 

“The competitiveness of auditioning in the music scene can be intense and scary, it creates a gap between other musicians in a way since we are forced to constantly be the best and then continue to get even better than others,” she said. 

She adds, “It has motivated me to improve my skills and ability to compete against others, but has on occasion made me feel ‘not up to par’ when it comes to professional musicianship.”

Yet, there are still glimmers of hope and creativity present within the competition where Thomsen has found space to grow.

She explains, “Focusing on bettering myself has been important to me. Not letting the competition distract me from my genuine passion for music and its technicalities is what I prioritize. Realizing that the competitiveness is where you can apply that creativity and practice is one way to overcome how scary auditioning can feel.”

Within her 4 years of growing as a passionate musician and choral competitor, Thomsen has achieved great things. Her greatest accomplishments, as she explains, “would be my continuing participation in the Regionals and All-States Choirs, and then being chosen as an alternate for the All-Nationals choir. It has taken the entire year to get to this point and it’s exciting to think back at how much I’ve grown throughout it.”

Thomsen’s growth as an artist, despite the discouraging nature of competition, has proven significant for not only her but for art and competition’s tricky coexistence. In Thomsen’s case, her priority is always growing her own musical passions and utilizing the competition to try and apply deeper creativity. When art is met with competition, it can actually be a moment to innovate and find new ways to grow as a creative.