Cherokee Chamber Singers

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Everything we think about high-risk activities has shifted in the time of the Coronavirus. If you heed the warnings of leading epidemiologists, just about the last artform to emerge from the pandemic is live choral music.

Think about it. Dozens of vocalists stand shoulder-to-shoulder on risers, singing with gusto and, in the process, launching microdroplets all over an enclosed airspace. It’s enough to drive infectious disease experts crazy, and it has choral directors all over the country scrambling for ideas to keep their choirs and the very artform alive.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Michael Yannette took over six years ago as director of choir and musical theater at Cherokee Central Schools. From the beginning, he faced a challenge he never encountered in his previous 25 years of teaching.

“I remember the first day I got here and I met the old choir director,” he recalled. “I remember going into the cabinets and seeing these little plastic elbow pipes, and he said, ‘Well, we use it so the kids can hear themselves sing.’ They hold one up to their mouth and the other to their ear, and I was like ‘okay.’”

Suffice to say, these students no longer need the elbow pipes. Over the past few years, as the Cherokee Chamber Singers—they've performed at the Smithsonian, Carnegie Hall and DisneyWorld, along with North Carolina’s capital and other locales in the state.