For Dougherty Valley’s music department, community is instrumental


Boomika Velineni

Sophomore Peter Gagea plays a vital role as the accompanist for DV’s choir.

Students and teachers performed at their Fall Concert on Oct. 4 and Oct. 6, showcasing their musical talents from the on-campus band, choir and orchestra classes. Shortly after, Jazz Band and Chamber Singers embarked on a three-day gig tour in LA. Fresh off of these events, Dougherty Valley’s music department shared their experience with music through the years.


From clarinets to drums, the students and teacher work together to form one organized unit with various instruments combined in band.

Teri Musiel, Dougherty’s band teacher, praised her students for embracing their community by showing support to their fellow music students. With their strengthened teamwork and tremendous amount of effort put in by each member, their hard work paid off—the fall concert was their best yet, she said.

“We are really starting to show that even just maturity wise, you can sit in the audience and watch other people and appreciate their efforts. That’s a good demonstration of all of our hard work and effort,” Ms. Musiel said.

To prepare for the concert, Musiel chose pieces that she thought would feature the band well.

“I think about having pieces that [represent] your hands, your heart, and your head. The “heart” [element would be] an emotional or a section in that piece. And then the hands would be a technical piece, like Windsprints. And then something for the head [would be] some of the jazz songs, like the Latin song. It makes them think differently [and]  it’s presented to the audience [in] a different style,” she explained.

Through all the arduous work that goes into preparing for concerts, Ms. Musiel still found joy overcoming the challenges that came along with her students.

There are many attributes of a good choral singer — vocal control and ear training among them — but what distinguishes a singular good singer from a great choir is teamwork.

“It’s challenging because we have so much music to learn in the beginning of the year. That’s the biggest challenge but that’s not mine. That’s almost [the bands’] challenge. Just getting us ready and try not to stress people out with music,” Musiel said.


There are many attributes of a good choral singer — vocal control and ear training among them — but what distinguishes a singular good singer from a great choir is teamwork. Maintaining rhythm and balance as a group requires extensive practice, and no individual can try to outshine another.

These characteristics are what Dougherty Valley’s Chamber Singers constantly work toward. As the smallest and most advanced choir at school, this selective co-ed group of seniors and juniors have been in choir with each other for every year of high school. As a result, they have gained a level of synergy and trust for each other, and many have grown to become close friends outside of the music room.

“I think every day I walk into the room [and] my spirits are lifted because it’s a really stress-relieving environment,” senior Shashank Bypan said. “Over the course of four years, I’ve connected with a really diverse community, and it makes me feel very welcome in choir; it’s just a fun place to be.”

Diverse is a fitting word — many of the Chamber Singers are multitalented, balancing choir with rigorous course loads or varsity athletics.

One such student is senior Andrew Richards, who has recently set school and regional records for Cross Country and Track and Field.

“We love him and he’s the fastest man alive,” senior Ayushi Mody joked.

Richards was facetiously asked by a group of other Chamber Singers whether his increased lung capacity as a result of running track had any correlation to his singing talent. Much to the interest of his peers, he was happy to give a (mostly) serious response.

“We’re getting really nerdy here. [Running requires] the efficiency of getting and expelling air really quickly. For singing, you’re just getting an incredible amount of oxygen, holding it, and using that,” he explained. “So you’re using your lungs in different ways—but [running] probably helps.”

Furthermore, the choir students grow to become better performers as their experiences teach them how to act under pressure. 

Sophomore Peter Gagea performs not only as part of choir, but also as a piano accompanist at the fall concert. The choir teacher, Diana Walker, stumbled upon Gagea practicing for his piano recital outside of school when she offered him the opportunity to perform as a piano accompanist.  

“I think I messed up at some parts. I think I did pretty well, except for the fact that I forgot to bow for one of the songs. It was really embarrassing,” Gagea said.

Despite his perceived mistakes, Gagea was able to recover and end his performance strong. Learning from this experience, he realized that teamwork and talent is not all that is needed for a successful ensemble. The sentiment in choir is that effort is the determining factor.

“Just put in the work and you’ll perform well. We always say, whatever you give in rehearsal, you’re gonna get about 80% of that onstage. So you have to really know your stuff and really put in the work,” said Ms. Diana Walker, DVHS’s choir teacher.


Senior Kristen Chen has been passionate about violin since fourth grade. In the years since, she has learned to practice for worst case scenarios before concerts.

“You kind of think of the things that could happen [or things that can go] wrong,” she explained. “So for example, if you [get] frozen on stage, you practice with an ice pack. If your adrenaline is making you way too nervous, you [should] hit cardio before you play your piece. And you [can practice] in the dark if you are not used to stage lights.”

Chen is Chamber Orchestra’s Concertmistress, a prestigious position reserved for the first chair violinist. Though mostly a ceremonial role, each instrument’s first chair(s) are seated closest to the audience and get priority for solos.

Despite this seemingly competitive “ranking” system, both Chen and violinist Anushka Bora stated that Chamber Orchestra was a supportive environment with no hard feelings between any of its members.

“Everyone’s really friendly and civil; it’s not toxic or anything. Playing with other people has actually helped me form a lot of good connections. Everyone really understands each other and respects each other’s talents,” Bora, who is a junior, stated.

Bora and Chen are just two of the multitudes of dedicated musicians that make up Dougherty Valley’s band, choir and orchestra programs. While they love the fun sense of community within the program, the most dedicated of Dougherty Valley’s music students ultimately stay committed due to their pure love for music.

“[Music] is a really good outlet for me,” Bora said. “Whether I’m feeling really happy or really sad, [playing violin] helps me focus when I’m distracted. Feeling the strong emotion [of the music] helps me cope with whatever I’m dealing with in life.”