TAMPA – You don't see a lot of high school students walking around iPods on, rocking out to Gregorian chants.
At Jesuit High School, seniors Sebastian Botero and Joonsung Suh, are part of one of the top choral groups in the state. The Jesuit chorus won the best male choir award at a performance at Bloomingdale High School.
The senior ensemble has been performing Gregorian music for two years, ever since the Rev. Patrick Hough came to Jesuit and changed the music from contemporary to Gregorian. It was unusual, Botero and Suh said. They weren't used to such an obscure music selection, but they have grown to enjoy it.
Both have long music backgrounds and Botero plans to major in voice performance at Northwestern University. Suh wants to attend either the University of Florida or Boston College and wants to major in a business-related field, but doesn't plan to give up his musical skills.
The new music came as a sort of revelation to the Jesuit seniors.
“When we were sophomores we mostly did more recent music, but then Father Hough came in and introduced chants,” Botero said. “I knew nothing about the type of music we would be doing because I had never heard it before. It took some time to teach it, but we learned it and like doing it.”
While it took some time, Suh said they got the hang of it without too much of a problem. He is an accomplished pianist and knows about all kinds of music. In fact, he is new to singing altogether.
“We just practiced it a lot,” Suh said. “We got a little bit rowdy sometimes, but we picked it up.”
Both have training in classical music and realized that the melodies of the Gregorian chants are simple if given the time and practice. The Jesuit ensemble performs on campus at least once a week at many events and is also part of the monthly Mass. They are learning regular chants but are also being trained in choral music by such composers as Mozart and Chopin. The ensemble isn't just big in Florida; it finished first in competitions in seven different states.
Suh came a long way from his beginning in music.
“I thought I hated it when I was starting. I was about 5 and my mother kept telling me to just keep trying,” Suh said. “I didn't want to and she kept telling me I could quit any time I wanted to. I don't know why but that made me keep going.”
Gregorian chants might not be the next big thing in music, but Botero said he's fine with that.
“It's beautiful music and I like singing it,” he said. “We make beautiful music and that's a great thing.''