Tabitha Peck had just graduated from James S. Rickards High School when she found a flyer on the floor of the chorus room. She turned it over — it was advertising the Leon High School summer musical, “The Sound of Music.” On a whim, she went to the audition and landed the role of Sister Sophia. Now, Peck is gearing up for yet another summer musical “Aida,” which opens July 12, only this time as music director.
“It was wonderful, the community that was built there between the students who were from Leon and all of those of us that were not,” recalls Peck of her first experience. “We all just melded together. I really try to recreate that for these students.”
Peck worked with former music director, Judy Arthur, on past summer musicals including “Phantom of the Opera.” Her first summer taking the lead was for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” She delighted in the musical’s scoring as it involved an entire choir in every number.
This year for “Aida,” Peck says she and director Naomi Rose-Mock decided to take auditions to four additional high schools besides Leon — Chiles, Godby, Lincoln and Rickards.
“We wanted to cast a wide net and be as inclusive as possible,” says Peck, who feels the decision allowed for a similar community bond that she felt with “The Sound of Music.”
Peck’s middle school band director, Dave Rollins, first nurtured her love for music. She was prepared to follow in Rollins’ footsteps and attend Florida State University as a French horn player with sights on band directing. However, after “The Sound of Music,” Peck quickly switched her major and joined the voice and choral program.
Peck is currently the Director of Choral Activities at Leon where she has taught for 17 years. She is grateful to professors Judy Bowers, Andre Thomas and Kevin Felton who steered her towards music education. Many of the tenets she puts forth in the classroom stem from their guidance.
“My philosophy is that there’s a place for everybody to sing,” says Peck. “If you want to go the distance, then you have to work hard. Everyone is going to learn how to sing in the full range of his or her voice and learn how to read music.”
It’s important to Peck that musicians be literate even if voice is their primary instrument. She remains passionate and enthusiastic for training students to reach their full potential and do justice to any piece of music.
Her Capital Singers were recently chosen to sing at the southern division American Choral Director’s Conference (ACDA) in Alabama this year. Peck challenges her students to dig deeper, and many of her choirs have been awarded honors at the district, regional and state levels.
“Don’t just sing,” says Peck. “Sing for a purpose. Sing for a reason.”
Choral music is as complex as the voices who sing it. Peck says it’s hard to choose favorite pieces given how the art form has grown and changed over the centuries. She often listens to Mozart and renaissance era works, but is also a fan of more contemporary and spiritual pieces.
When it comes to what she chooses to sing, she turns to pieces that have poetic text or strong prose. A great melody also captures her ear. It’s what makes the madrigal one of her favorite types of choral arrangements to sing.
“A madrigal is a style of music from the Renaissance,” says Peck. “It’s polyphonic and has lots of different melody lines happening at the same time. They’re generally very complicated and fun to sing.”
The more modern score for “Aida” was written by Elton John and contains a wide range of sounds from rock to gospel. The story is set in ancient Egypt where the Nubian people are enslaved and building the pyramids. A series of tangled romantic connections and high stakes conflict make it a textured musical.
Read the rest of the story by visiting the Tallahassee Democrat
or read more by downloading the article here