The Rocket Flame

A Day In the Life Of Mr. Poe


When you think of your teachers, you probably think of them staying in one classroom, teaching the same class throughout the day, but that’s not the case for Mr. Eric Poe (Faculty).

For eleven years, Poe has been the James Buchanan High School’s Chorus teacher. Throughout his day he travels to three different schools, teaches five different classes, and instructs kids ranging from fifth to twelfth grade.

To be able to teach his students, Poe has to be “performing” at all times. He has to sing in his vocal classes to teach proper techniques and demonstrate how to sing the notes properly, as well as be able to play the trumpet and piano for his music theory and elementary band classes. Even when he’s not having a good day or not feeling well, he still has to perform and be at his best to be able to teach his students.

Starting out his day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Poe reports with Messa Voce, a special choral group, to the high school at 7:15 AM. At this time, they rehearse chamber, more classical repertoire, and popular, or “pop” music. The popular music they put to choreography.

First period, Poe teaches high school Chorus. During this period, some students have band, so he and Mrs. Sheryl Deike (Faculty) have to trade the students off every other day, having a “full Band” one day, and “full Chorus” the next. Here, they practice music for their Chorus concerts.

Messa Voce returns to Poe second period. Most days, he mainly focuses on Messa Voce, but on Wednesday he rehearses with the Five-Point Band, Messa Voce’s music ensemble.

Everybody in Messa Voce is encouraged to try out for District Chorus, and most make it to County Chorus. Since these activities are at the beginning of the year, during that time they mainly focus on the music for that appropriate activity. When not working on that, they’re working on their concert music.

Third period, Poe teaches AP Music Theory. This class involves teaching students the mechanics of music. He teaches notation to his students, as well as ear training, to get them prepared for the AP test at the end of the year.

Period four, Poe not only has his lunch period, but also his planning period. While simultaneously eating his lunch, he also sends emails, writes his lesson plans, and completes anything else he needs to before 

he heads down to the middle school around 12:30 PM. By getting there early, he has to have enough time to prepare the auditorium and get organized before his students come.

“There’s a lot of different things happening during that period [middle school activity period], so it’s hard to get the students to our practice,” said Poe.

At the middle school, Poe teaches not only seventh and eighth grade Chorus, but also sixth grade Chorus. Like the high school, the middle school Chorus period also has Band that happens at the same time. In addition, this period serves as a free period for students to do make-up work and attend other clubs. Sometimes Chorus only gets to meet once a week, and with everybody asking to leave and signing out, it takes up around ten minutes of his period, making it go from forty to thirty minutes. At times, this period is one of the most stressful times of his day, according to Poe.

Around 2:15 PM, Poe heads either to Mountain View or St. Thomas Elementary schools to teach Beginners’ Band. He brings his trumpet along to show students how to play the different rhythms and what the notes should sound like. Many of his students ask how to play the notes and the correct finger positioning of them. At 3:15 PM, his students are picked up and he is able to go home.

Poe’s crazy schedule at times leaves him stressed and exhausted to a point where he does not have the time to help teachers out as much as he’d like

“I’m not complaining, I just want my colleagues to understand,” said Poe.

Although Poe has a crazy, busy day, he gets satisfaction from being able to teach so many kids and bringing music into their lives.


Orchestra Welcomes the Christmas season with a “Cello”

After all of the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes have been eaten, all the pumpkins are carved and the leaves are done falling and changing colors, with all of these signs, we know a new season is quickly approaching: Christmas time! However, this is old news for the James Buchanan High School Orchestra.


Director Mrs. Sheryl Dieke (Faculty), and the Rocket Orchestra have been preparing for the Christmas season since the beginning of this school year. In September, the students received some of the selections of music that could be featured in the Christmas concert.


The orchestra’s Christmas Concert will take place in the high school auditorium on Dec. 16 at 3:00 p.m.


From the time the Orchestra received the music, they have worked and practiced every day during second period to perfect it.


“They just have a lot of basics under control” said Dieke. “They sight read phenomenally and understand key signatures very well.”


All violins, violas, cellos and bass must break the music down measure by measure with their sections to play their parts in the music successfully to be prepared to perform it for the concert. Each instrument plays an essential role in the orchestra because they all bring the piece of music together with their various parts.


“Being that we have put it into a classroom situation where we’re practicing every day, rather than hit and miss during an activity period, the only direction to go is up,!” said Dieke. “And the students prove that every day!”


Megan Hoffeditz (12), the Orchestra’s only viola player, has been playing since the fourth grade. She believes practicing is a crucial. She has also learned what it takes to get through difficult pieces and to succeed as the only viola.


“Just sitting down, playing through it really slow, working out the notes and then speeding it up as time goes on,” helps her explained Hoffeditz.


During second period, the students have been working on a variety of songs including “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Babes in Toyland,” “Ukrainian Fantasy,” “Sleep, Holy Babe,” and “The Christmas Waltz.” Practice is important to the orchestra, because they want to make sure everyone is able to play their part.


Lana Donahue (12) has been playing the violin for 8 and 1/2 years. She is first chair violin in the orchestra. She has learned what tips and tricks it takes for her to overcome difficult parts in the music.


“I play by ear so I mostly search the music online.” said Donahue. “Then I listen to it and I go home and I can just put earphones in and I just play the music by itself.”


There are also students who work on the music during their own time because they didn’t have enough room in their schedule to fit in Orchestra throughout the day. For the concert, both groups come together to play.


With a variety of music pieces comes a variety of difficulty. Pieces are rated for difficulty by grades. The grades range from 1-7, with 1 being the least and 7 the most difficult. The highest grade the Orchestra will be playing is a grade 4 piece called “Wizards in Winter.” The piece is by Paul O’Neill and Robert Kinkel and arranged by Bob Phillips. The song has many sixteenth notes and changes fastly from playing “arco,” or with your bow, to “pizzicato,” or plucking the strings with your fingers.


“Lots of things are happening layer on layer which is really cool,” said Dieke. “The tempo, the sixteenth-note runs, and all the little intricate pieces that are in there.”


“Wizards in Winter” will be the Orchestra’s closing piece. However, the group seems to have some tricks up their sleeves to intensify the closing song: the closing piece will also feature a light show.


The light show will be put together by Claire Alfree (12) and Hannah Mellott (12). Both Alfree and Mellott are in Sound and Lighting, taught by Mr. Eric Poe (Faculty). The girls are working on using their skills that they have learned from the class to make the lights “dance” with the rhythm of the music. They plan to make the song more intriguing to the audience and do something out of the ordinary.


Students know there are some things to still work out before the show. However, they have confidence they will perform nicely at the concert.


Hoffeditz says, “I feel we will do pretty well. We have a lot of solid songs so far.”


Although, the orchestra has shrunken in size over the last couple of years the director has no fear that the orchestra will be nothing but successful for their Christmas performance.


“The kids are great and have worked very hard,” said Dieke. “It will be magnificent! It will be a great concert!”

Warm Music for the Cold Weather

The James Buchanan High School Chorus make preparations for their upcoming Christmas Concert.

The James Buchanan High School Chorus warming up for rehearsal.

Christmas is one of the busiest seasons of the year, and it does not stop for the James Buchanan Chorus members. A lot is happening for the Chorus this time of year, which kicked off with District Chorus Auditions at the end of October, then to a trip to the American Music Theatre, and lastly the annual Christmas Concert in December.


Mr. Eric Poe (Faculty), requires junior and senior Messa Voce members to audition for District Chorus. Pennsylvania is split up into twelve different districts, and auditions are held for any high school student who would like to try out. Judges then rate each student’s audition, and if the singer’s performance is satisfactory, they will then be inducted into the District Chorus. He also makes it optional for tenth grade members of Messa Voce to audition if they feel prepared.

The Chorus taking a look at their parts in “Ding-a-Dinga-a Ding.”

“Districts is a great learning experience for students,” Poe stated. “Preparing the audition is a lot of hard work. It prepares them for future experiences when learning how to practice in advance.”


Poe gives the required students the music they have to sing in May of the previous school year. They have about five months to prepare their audition. The audition consists of two songs, one that is accompanied, meaning a pianist performs the piece with the singer, and the other song is acapella, where the performer sings with no instruments. They are scored on these two songs out of 450. The singers are scored on five categories, rhythm, intonation, interpretation, technique, and tone with each section worth fifteen points. If you are in the top 25 of auditioners, you make it into District Chorus.


Logan Williams (11) and Patrick Hicks (10) had a very impressive audition: they tied for place 26, only one spot away from making it into the District Chorus. Poe has the ability to send one student to the District Chorus concert as a representative of James Buchanan High School, and he usually chooses the highest scoring member; this year Williams will be representing the school in the District Chorus Concert.

There was not much time to celebrate after the auditions; the Chorus then had to begin preparing for their trip on Nov 15.


Many of the students in chorus went on the trip to the American Music Theater in Lancaster where we sang carols then watched their annual Christmas show,” Chorus member, Korina Williams (12) said.


Prior to the show the Chorus, directed by Poe, performed their carols for the audience.


“We sang Christmas carols in the rotunda as people got their drinks, refreshments, and found their seats,” Jackie Wagaman (11) said.


The chorus is now in full swing into preparing for their upcoming Christmas Concert on Dec, 17 at 3:00 p.m. They have spent a lot of time preparing a wide variety of genres and songs, including Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” “Christmas in de Tropics,” “Winter Song,” “The Twelve Groovy Days of Christmas,” “Ding-a Dinga-a Ding,” “Hallelujah Chorus,” and “We Need A Little Christmas.”


The James Buchanan High School Chorus is rehearsing a piece they will be singing at the Christmas Concert.

There are several featured soloists within these songs as well.  In Vivaldi’s Gloria Chelsea Wareham (11), Korina Williams (12), Lauren Fleming (12) will be performing solos. Kayla Myers (12) and Kierstyn Martin (12) also have a duet. Jackie Wagaman (11), Jacob Troupe (10), and Olivia Harmon (11) have also been given solos in Christmas in de Tropics. Sierra Suffecool (12) and Ella Heckman (10) also were just recently rewarded solos in Winter Song.


Learning and perfecting several different songs can be very demanding for the chorus. Some of the songs even have different languages within: Vivaldi’s “Gloria” is completely in Latin.


The most difficult part of preparing for the concert is Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria,’” Williams said.  “There are twelve movements all in Latin, and the music is intermediate to advanced.”


It is not just the difficulty of a song that the students struggle with, but also musical factors like tone, dialect, rhythm, and their own musicality.  For another Chorus member, Wagaman faces different obstacles in the music.


“I have to say personally for me it’s rhythm,” Wagaman said. “You can have the sweetest voice, you can have the best dictation of your pronunciations, but if you do not feel the music, what’s the point?”


The songs are not just difficult but also very enjoyable for the students to sing.

At rehearsal Luke Spurgeon is accompanying the Chorus while singing “Ding-a Dinga-a Ding.”

“The most enjoyable song is most likely “Ding-a Ding-a Ding” because it is fast paced and very fun,” William’s states.  


Lots of preparations have been being made to perfect the Christmas Concert. From District Chorus auditions strengthening musical techniques, to performing carols, all of this gets the chorus into the Christmas spirit for their upcoming concert.

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Mr. Eric Poe