Living in the limelight: Two WTHS vocalists named to All-State Mixed Chorus

Best friends, better singers Joe Destra and Taylor Wise named to All-State Mixed Chorus. Performances are scheduled for the fall

Taylor Wise and Joe Destra celebrate their acceptance into the New Jersey All-State Mixed Chorus. The two vocalists are making their first appearance at the All-State level. (Anthony J. Mazziotti III/The Sun)

More than 1,000 students across the state sent clips of singing solos, scales and a quintet in hopes of being named to the All-State Mixed Chorus. When it was over, roughly 300 students were chosen to be a part of this prestigious group. Washington Township High School students Joe Destra and Taylor Wise were two of those students.

Destra and Wise, a junior and sophomore respectively, are making their first appearance in the New Jersey All-State Mixed Chorus. According to choral director Joe Zachowski, the two are leaders of the choral program.

“Joe and Taylor are two of our best singers we have in the program,” he said. “They work very, very hard; they do very well, they like being challenged. They like doing things that stretch their abilities. I enjoy having the two of them.”

Destra, a tenor, began taking his craft seriously in the fifth grade when he realized how much talent he had.

“Ever since then it’s been an upward spiral,” he said.

Now he feels his strength is his ability to hit the high notes.

“That’s my biggest strength – belting and head voice,” he added.

Head voice, Zachowski described, is a softer, different sound that shows off upper range. It’s something that can’t be hit with chest voice.

Wise, an alto, agreed with Destra, noting she took singing more seriously in the fifth grade because that’s when the choir program began branching out. While that aspect is similar to Destra, their skill-sets are yin and yang.

“I’m kind of the opposite, I have a low voice for a girl,” she said. “I would like to say I have a pretty good range – that’s my strength.”

The two singers are both in honors classes during the day. Wise said she takes all honors classes, while Destra said he takes mostly honors classes. When it comes to free time, they both enjoy spending time with their families. While Wise practices tap dance outside of school, Destra notes hanging with his friends doing various activities like shopping or relaxing fills his agenda.

While this is the first trip to the All-State Mixed Chorus for Destra and Wise, it is not the first rodeo for Zachowski, who said Washington Township is usually well-represented year in and year out. Despite their recent successes, he is excited for his students to have the experience.

“What I’m looking forward for this experience for them is no matter how much anyone loves their high school program when they do an experience like South Jersey or All-State it gives you a whole different experience than what you’re getting every day,” Zachowski described. “You’re working with a different conductor. Singing with different people. That experience is awesome. As a student I loved it, I was fortunate enough to make it.”

Being surrounded by 300 other vocalists from across the state, in addition to a new conductor, can only bring positive things back to the chorus at Washington Township High School. Seeing how other people practice or warm-up could be the difference maker.

“It may be just two of our students going but they can make our whole class better by bringing that back,” Zachowski added.

Destra and Wise are equally excited for the experience.

“I’m excited to learn new things to bring back to our program and to also see the different types of repertoire we’re presented because I always like to hear new music,” Wise said.

Destra is looking forward more to the social aspect.

“I’m excited to sing the music, that’s the best part of chorus,” he said. “I like to meet new people, I’m really sociable. Getting to meet new people and getting to do it with Taylor, who’s one of my closest friends, to get to do this with her is really fun.”

The New Jersey All-State Mixed Chorus will hold one practice in June followed by two practices in the beginning of next school year. The group will perform twice; the first is scheduled for the Friday night of the teacher’s convention in Atlantic City this November. The second will take place the following Sunday at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.