As far as community institutions go in Marana, few have received more acclaim than the Thornydale Songbirds. Since 2001, students in fourth through sixth grades at Thornydale Elementary have had the opportunity to explore their choral talents in this extracurricular activity. From their first year, the Songbirds have been a fixture at the Marana Holiday Festival, and this year will be no different. Performing classic carols like “Carol of the Elves” and “I’ve Got Christmas,” they are sure to entertain as much as ever.
Gwyn Ungermann has spent thirty years teaching in Marana Unified School District, and for 15 of those years, she has directed the Songbirds. As the group’s founder, she takes well-earned pride in these “Thornydale Ambassadors of Music.”
Students’ commitment to the group is admirable. Participation is entirely voluntary, and rehearsals occur twice a week after school. Despite the long school day, though, these singers never fail to fill their voices with energy and enthusiasm. “It definitely keeps me on my toes!” laughs Ungermann. “I love to watch their growth both musically and personally, along with their increased self-discipline as the year progresses.”
Longevity, however, does not always breed perfection, and the Songbirds have experienced their fair share of mishaps. One year, heavy winds blew the sheet music in all different directions. Another year, just before taking the stage, a group of students spilled hot chocolate down their pristine Songbird shirts. “We looked great!” Ungermann reminisces. With performers like these, you never know what’s going to happen, but you can rest assured that no matter what, they are sure to entertain.
Beyond community entertainment, the Thornydale Songbirds are able to accomplish a far more meaningful, long-term objective. Researchers have found strong links between music and language development. Furthermore, exposure to the arts enhances creativity, attention to detail, and problem solving abilities. The students who commit to the Songbirds are expected to commit considerable time to the group, and that commitment teaches them the importance of discipline, teamwork, and dedication.
On December 5, the Thornydale Songbirds will take the stage once again at the Marana Holiday Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting at the Marana Municipal Complex, 11555 W. Civic Center Dr. The whole event will run from 3pm to 8pm, and the Songbirds’ performance will start at 3:30. You won’t want to miss the melodies of these young voices, so make sure you join us as we Deck Town Hall. We hope to see you there!