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The news site of Glenbrook South High School.

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Sirvatka continues commitment to Nine, Solace

Martin Sirvatka plays a tune for South students to sing to. Photo by Jackie Cortopassi.
Martin Sirvatka plays a tune for South students to sing to. Photo by Jackie Cortopassi.
Buxtehude. Leopold. Neefe. The common link these people share? They were music teachers who helped pave a path for the lives of their students: Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Just as these teachers formed great composers, Martin Sirvatka, choir director and instructional supervisor, strives to influence his students to become great musicians through his contributions to the South music program.

Twenty years ago, Sirvatka said he joined the South music program when he saw the opportunities.

“It was a great community and had a lot of potential,” Sirvatka said. 

According to Sirvatka, he began his career at South by doing his best to promote the music program.

“I was asked in the interview for this position how I would make the boys join the program,” Sirvatka said. “I told them that when I was in college, I was in a male acapella group and I would have loved to see a male acapella group here. So, the first year I created Nine. In the beginning the music was easy and we weren’t the best, but the program started to get more popular.”

Nine soon popularized the music program after its diminutive acknowledgement in the beginning, according to Sirvatka.

“The first Nine audition, I had 11 boys audition,” Sirvatka said. “Recently, it was 44. After seeing Nine and it getting so popular, the girls were like, ‘What about a girl acapella group?’ So I made Solace around [the year] 2000.”

By creating these groups, Sirvatka dedicated much of his time to his students like senior Megan Warshawsky, member of Solace.

“He always puts in extra time for the choirs and he’s always there for us,” Warshawsky said. “He’s always just very open.”

According to Choral Director Stevi Marks, not only was Sirvatka successful in his dedication of establishing new groups, but he also was able to invent a whole different sound from the existing choir altogether.

“There used to be this sound that the choirs had,” Marks said. “It just sounded like a wall of jello that didn’t go anywhere, and foofy, unfocused. He started to change that right away just with working on tones, working on vowels, working on all the things we worked on all the time.”

In order to improve the music he makes with his students, Sirvatka describes his teaching style as honest so he can help his students as much as he can.

   “I’m truthful and encouraging,” Sirvatka said. “When I tell my kids that they did a good job, I want them to believe what I say. I always tell them, ‘If you’re going to make a mistake, make a big one.’ Sometimes this happens when the boys’ voices crack. One time, during a concert, one girl threw up during the performance, but we all learn from these mistakes.”  

Senior Jeffrey Mathew, member of Nine, sees Sirvatka’s teaching style as an effective way to make his students better.

“I would say [his demand for excellence] is almost scary sometimes, but he tells you ‘You are really good, and I want your very best from you’,” Mathew said. “I took AP Music Theory 2 with him and right away, I was kind of behind because everyone knew their music theory […] but he would stop and explain [a concept] in different terms, so he wanted you to leave the class knowing what you just learned.”

Although Sirvatka gives them the push to become better, Sirvatka also knows to teach in a style that keeps the atmosphere light and energetic, according to senior Tom Olickal, member of Nine.

 “He’s strict, but he’s also funny a lot of the time,” Olickal said. “That just creates this nice environment that is fun to learn in. He makes singing fun.”

Even though he may come off as strict in order to improve his students’ musical skills, Sirvatka feels that the students reciprocate in teaching him about other types of music.

 “Because of them, I’ve learned to appreciate all types of music,” Sirvatka said.  “I’ve tried listening to rap, I like Pentatonix, and I also like Imagine Dragons. But nothing is better than when we all create music together. That’s the best.”

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