"I'm often impressed with their commitment, that they want to stick with singing, and that makes me happy."
Twice a week, the Inman High School halls are alive with the sound of music.
Karissa Menard leads the group known as the Noteables, which this year comprises five young women and six young men — primarily juniors — who form a small singing ensemble.
"It is above and beyond the normal concert choir class time," said Menard, who is in her fourth year teaching at Inman High School. "Noteables are the select ensemble from Inman High School students."
Menard holds auditions each year for students to join the Noteables. Students are required to have choir experience and also be enrolled in choir.
Extracurricular activities are abundant at Inman High School for students, with sports, FFA, scholar's bowl and forensics, just to name some examples, adding to their regular schoolwork.
"They're very busy students," Menard said. "I'm often impressed with their commitment, that they want to stick with singing, and that makes me happy."
The Noteables practice together for 30 minutes twice a week, working on songs from various genres such as gospel, pop and sacred music.
"With the smaller group, I try and do more a cappella. I think it's good practice for them," Menard said.
The Noteables compete in solo and small ensemble contests, and are planning on being at the 2A regional competition at Central Christian College in April. In that arena, the students must sing without being directed. The Noteables hope to advance to the state competition, which will be held later that month at Kansas Wesleyan University.
"Part of being in the Noteables is there's more put on them," Menard said. "More expectations from me as far as their behavior in the classroom and in the school."
The Noteables have sung the national anthem for school sporting events and performed for the students at Inman Elementary and several area churches.
'Throughout the year, the students perform for various things," Menard said. "We perform for people as much as we can. At Christmas time, we got to sing at the senior center for their party."
The seniors both listened to the songs and talked with the students, many of whom they have known since they were small children.
"To see them growing up is kind of a neat thing for them," Menard said.
Being in a smaller group has its benefits, but also presents its challenges too. It can make the students a little more self-conscious in their performance.
"Performing for people that you don't know, there is an intimidation factor in that," Menard said. "I tell the students that these people just love the fact that you're there."
Creating a tight-knit group from an already close student body at a smaller high school forms relationships not unlike those of a family.
"It's a smaller group, so they tend to get along and are close to each other," Menard said.
Menard participated in a similar singing group when she was in high school.
"Some of the best times of my high school career were in that group," Menard recalled.
Teaching her students to go beyond just singing the notes on a page, Menard encourages them to bring their entire attitude into the performance.
"If we can connect to the music we're singing, we can help the audience connect to the music as well," Menard said. "That is a gift that you can give them and that they can enjoy."
Menard believes that by learning how to have an audience appreciate the performance of a song, love can be shown to them.
"If I can show my students how to do that through music," Menard said, "I think I've done something good."