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Sirvatka’s retirement concert to put ribbon on career

SINGING FOR SIRVATKA: Preparing for the concert on May 28, members of the Master Singers choir practice their piece entitled “Orphans of God.” Current students of Sirvatka will be performing the piece along with some of his former students.

Photo by Jacqueline DeWitt

SINGING FOR SIRVATKA: Preparing for the concert on May 28, members of the Master Singers choir practice their piece entitled “Orphans of God.” Current students of Sirvatka will be performing the piece along with some of his former students.

Aakash Bhojwani & John Park, staff reporters

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“Don’t settle for mediocrity.” Although it is Choir Director Marty Sirvatka’s final year, according to GBS graduate Tom Olickal, his mantra will continue to ring throughout the Choir Department for years to come. According to Olickal this mentality has helped Sirvatka’s students flourish, and on May 28, his pupils, past and current, will take the stage to celebrate his career through various performances.

According to senior Danny Schiller, the concert is titled “Reprise,” and it represents how the concert will be one final recapitulation of his career.

“I hope it’s everything that he wants it to be in the idea that it’s sort of like the end of it all, and it’s […] from start to finish a nice circle summing up his career,” Schiller said.

Troy Ossey is in charge of coordinating with the alumni for the concert. Ossey is currently in the Tech Support Department at South. Ossey was a previous student of Sirvatka and was part of the first Nine choir group at South. He hopes that the concert will celebrate Sirvatka’s legacy and successes throughout his time at South.

“I think our biggest goal is to honor Mr. Sirvatka and the dedication that he’s put into this program,” Ossey said. “As much as he would probably like to deflect a lot of the attention, this concert really is about him and the legacy that he has created […].”

One alumnus participating in the concert is Olickal who was part of choir during his four years at South. He is involved in the planning for the concert, which involves contacting Sirvatka’s past students. In addition to GBS alumni, according to Olickal, some of Sirvatka’s students from Leyden High School, where Sirvatka taught at prior to GBS, will be coming to the concert to honor his career and his musical influence.

“There are so many aspects to this concert because we have to get in touch with so many alumni, […] make sure that it is coordinated and somehow rehearse all of them,” Olickal said. “I don’t think it’s really been done before.”

According to Sirvatka, he decided to have this concert so his students could have closure and say goodbye to him. While this concert can be considered a celebration of Sirvatka, he says that there is much more to it than that.

“Well I just thought it was a good capstone, a good punctuation mark on my career  […] ,” Sirvatka said. “It is more than me celebrating me, it is me celebrating all the students that I’ve had.”

Sirvatka says he is honored that so many of his former students are coming back to be a part of this concert. A mass choir of all former students will be singing a number called “Orphans of God,” according to junior Michael Kirby, and a choir of all past and current Nine members will be singing “Nearer My God to Thee.” Sirvatka says that this concert will reenact some of his favorite moments that have taken place on stage.

“I think it’s going to be an amazing display of talent,” Sirvatka said. “I think it’s going to be a good chance for people to see the history of this program and for the alumni to come back to see where the program has gone and how the excellence was maintained.”

Above all, Olickal feels that the concert will be special because of Sirvatka himself, as he is an influential source of talent. Olickal has a high opinion of his former choir director and mentor.

“What makes [the concert] special is it’s Marty Sirvatka,” Olickal said. “He’s not an ordinary choir director. He works day and night, seven days a week, 365 days a year. He goes hard […]. Students who have come through the department understand that. [The concert is] about honoring him, and it’s a flourish of talent.”

According to Olickal, a perfect example of Sirvatka’s legacy is the commonality of excellence in the singing style of his students.

“Throughout the years, not much has changed,” Olickal said. “People who have gone through the department can hear [people who] were in the department twenty years ago […]. The group has sounded the same year to year.”

Sirvatka holds the culture he has created very close to him and regards his students as an extension of his family.

“They have become my family,” Sirvatka said. “They have impacted me more than I would have ever believed. They have inspired me; they have challenged me; they have consoled me, they have given me lots of laughter, a wonderful sense of purpose and they have reminded me of what it is to stay young and excited about life.”

Schiller also appreciates Sirvatka’s willingness to reach out. During his freshman year, Schiller was worried that he wouldn’t be able to handle his commitments to soccer, academics and choir. But, a memorable meeting with Sirvatka allowed him to put aside his fears and move forward in his participation throughout the department.

“He took the time to just speak with me one on one and say that he knows it’s going to be difficult for me to balance my time, but that he’d really want me to be in part of the [singing] groups,” Schiller said. “That was sort of the spark […]. From that point forward, I kind of owed it to him because he took the time out for me, so I had to take the time out for him.”

This retirement concert will be Sirvatka’s final concert. He says that he anticipates feeling pride and joy at the special event.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Sirvatka said.  “I’m happy and excited. And then there’s a lot of sadness. But it’s more sentimental. It’s not like I’m feeling pity for myself or regret. This is tears of joy if there’s going to be tears.”

Kirby believes that this concert will also be important to show how many students Sirvatka has influenced and taught. Olickal says that Sirvatka has influenced him by instilling a strong work ethic.

“I never took music very seriously in choir until I got into Nine my junior year […],” Olickal said. “He made me work harder, and he made me learn things […]. He taught me how to be more aware and work in a group environment, to get your tasks done. And these are all lessons that I apply to my life now […]. He has instilled this sort of mentality that you can’t settle.”

According to Olickal, the mentality that Sirvatka has emphasized has taken the GBS choir department to great heights.

“The sound of the GBS choir is as good as any professional choir,” Olickal said. “The sound of the a cappella groups and Chambers is up there with college, if not better […]. The hype of the choir department is thanks to Mr. [Sirvatka].”

One memorable moment where Sirvatka’s mantra inspired students was during last year’s Glenbrook musical, according to Kirby.

“We were learning a song for How to Succeed [in Business Without Really Trying] and we weren’t being very productive […],” Kirby said. “So he told us his whole speech of ‘don’t settle for less,’ and it just made us instantly better. It just made the dynamic of ‘this can either be a high school show or […] a professional show.’”

Sirvatka hopes that this mindset is what he’s leaving behind at GBS for music students of the future.

“I always feel like [you need to] do your best, reach down really deep within you and be challenged and go farther than you ever thought you could,” Sirvatka said. “So that’s the legacy that I’d like to leave.”

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Sirvatka’s retirement concert to put ribbon on career