Evanston Civic Chorus Director: Anyone can sing

Evanston resident Victoria Cavazos has been involved with music her entire life. In 2021, she sang with the Evanston Civic Chorus. During that year’s Christmas concert, she was asked to direct some practices the director was unable to attend.

“That was very exciting for me, because I’ve had a lot of experience with public school choirs, but that was my first time directing a community choir,” Cavazos said. In the spring, her predecessor had to leave entirely, and Cavazos took the director position. “They asked me to fill in for that concert, then after that asked me to officially be the new director,” she said.

Because her father was in the military, Cavazos moved around a lot in her youth. She was born in Pocatello, Idaho, then moved to Kansas as an infant. Subsequently, she lived in Iceland, England, Georgia, Colorado and Virginia. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, she taught choir in Texas for 11 years. “That’s where I spent the most time, but I am thrilled to be back in this part of the country,” she said.

Cavazos spends Monday through Thursday teaching in Farson, coming back to Evanston on weekends. “I teach all of the grades, which is wonderful, because most of my experience has been with high school or middle school.”

Between teaching in Texas and Farson, Cavazos spent some time working a corporate job, balancing voice and piano lessons. “While that was a wonderful job and a great opportunity, and I learned so much, it wasn’t enough music for me,” she said. Now, she is more content, saying “I really thrive doing music all day. It’s kind of my whole life.”

Cavazos said she has always wanted to pursue music, but developed an interest in education during high school. “I noticed that, in choir class, one of the things I enjoyed the most was helping out in my section and guiding other students who were struggling,” she said.

Cavazos is proud to have organized an appreciation dinner while teaching in Texas. She said, “The students would serve a three-course meal while also juggling performances.” Cavazos invited community members, parents and even the town’s mayor. “It was a huge, formal event really led by the students, which I’m really proud of.”

The next accomplishment Cavazos recalled was her time teaching in Fort Bend County, Texas. There, she played a role in building a choral program at a middle school. This was part of the administration’s effort to implement choir throughout the district, which Cavazos estimated to be around 50 schools. “That was a huge growing opportunity for me and such a proud four years.” Cavazos said, adding that most of her students in the first year were in her class involuntarily. She was proud to show that class that they were capable of singing. “If you can talk, you can sing.  You just need someone to help guide you.”

She turned those reluctant students into district champions that year. “We competed against programs that had decades of experience, so that was huge,” she said.

The largest event Cavazos could recall was arranging a musical on a minimal budget. “We put on the Lion King with 120 students. Every kid who was in choir got to be part of it,” she said. Much like the appreciation dinner, Cavazos said that the students handled much of the production independently.

Personally, Cavazos is proud of earning a position on the Houston Symphony Chorus. “That is a highly competitive and incredible group of musicians,” she said, adding that leaving the group was one of the most difficult parts of leaving Texas. “As a performer, that was definitely my highest achievement.”

Cavazos stated her appreciation for Sarah Maisey, the choir’s accompanist. “She does everything. She is the heart of the civic orchestra and chorus, in my opinion.” Cavazos also credited the orchestra and chorus board for everything it does to arrange shows. 

Cavazos said that the most difficult part of her work is arranging “songs that are going to challenge us, but also ensure that we’re successful.” This includes music that is diverse, but suitable to a concert. “Truly, I’ll go through hundreds of songs before I find the right ones,” she said. “There’s so much out there, and I’m looking and listening for so many variables to find the right pieces.” After that, she and the choir work on isolating difficult areas within the music and strive to perfect it.

“We have so much fun together. We work hard, but we laugh, connect, tell stories, jokes and really enjoy being creative together, she said. “It’s wonderful to share that and be able to present that to the audience that comes to see us on concert day.”

Cavazos was unsure whether she would find something like her work in Evanston and Farson so soon, but now she says she is comfortable in the area, and glad to be involved with the civic chorus. “We are so fortunate to have so much talent, skill attention to detail and enthusiasm for the music. That really inspires me, and makes it so rewarding to come to rehearsal,” she said. She encourages the community to join. “All you have to do is show up and be willing to try. I’m here to tell you, everyone can sing.”

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