High Notes and High Hopes For Cleveland


Clarion photo Yanling Joslin

Allison Bassett, new choir teacher.

By Piper, Gillen

Taking over a popular program in a high school is no easy task, but new choir teacher Allison Bassett has big aspirations for the traditionally successful choirs.

Bassett, who brings with her vast teaching and performing experience, hopes to add in the next few years more ensembles and a music theory class to Cleveland. In addition, she wants to make the choir a tight-knit community and a place where people can grow their musical abilities.

“I like working with the students and helping them being able to express themselves in ways they might not be able to in other classes,” Bassett said.

In the immediate future, Bassett wants to grow the choir this year and give it more school exposure. She also hopes to expand the ensemble that takes place every lunch in the choir room on B days. Bassett encourages anyone to join to develop their voice and get more experience.

Bassett sang in the Chamber Choir at Eastern Oregon University and directed a small ensemble theater. She also had a part-time job directing two church choirs, taught at a high school in Coos Bay, and an international school in Portland and worked as a substitute for a while.

Since coming to Portland, Bassett has been singing with the Oregon Repertory Singers (ORS), and for the past two years she has been with the Portland State Chamber Choir, traveling around the world. A year ago the choir won a competition in Bali, and this past summer she traveled to Argentina to compete.

“I’ve been singing my entire life in choirs,” Bassett said.

Bassett is impressed with the choir’s long history of success, a record that includes six state titles from 1997-2012, and three second-place finishes since 1992. She takes over for the popular Diana Rowey, who left in the spring to teach at Woodstock Elementary. Rowey’s choirs claimed a state title in 2012 and finished second in 2013.

Other successful choir directors included Steve Peter (state titles in 1997, 2006; and second in 1992), and Sam Barbara (state titles in 2007, 2008, 2010, and second in 2009), according to the OSAA.

“[Bassett’s] really energetic and she’s really nice,” sophomore Karissa Suydam said. “She’s also really good at explaining what you’re supposed to do and is really understanding towards students.”

Bassett has also had a good impact on the staff. “She is very efficient. She seemed connected to the kids and the kids enjoyed working with her,” band teacher Gary Riler said.

Bassett has greeted us with open arms and the student body of Cleveland will be sure to return the favor.

“My favorite part [of teaching] is that a lot of the time there isn’t instantaneous feedback or results, but for me it’s the longer arc,” Bassett explained.