The Iken Name Lives on as Sight-Singing Bee Grand Champion

The fourth-annual MICDS Sight-Singing Bee was held starting in early May and concluded with the final round of competition on Friday, May 19, 2023. Ben Iken ’24 was named the Sight-Singing Bee Grand Champion.

If you are unfamiliar with sight-singing, it is when a student is presented with a piece of music or a passage of music that they have never seen before and is asked to sing it on sight using the correct pitches and rhythms. Depending on the level of difficulty, the student is given between 45 and 60 seconds to study and rehearse aloud the excerpt before performing it for evaluation. “This is a skill that we work on in every single class, every day of the year,” said Dana Self, Upper School Performing Arts Teacher. “Some students figure the sight-singing puzzle out very quickly; others take a bit more time to develop their skills. But sight-singing is something I feel very passionate about as it is a skill that these young singers can use for the rest of their lives, whether it be in a college choir, church choir, community choir, or simply picking up a piece of sheet music just for fun.”

The competition to make it to round one started back in late August. Each student in the three MICDS Choirs completed 18 different sight-singing assessments over the course of the school year. Each student has an account on that generates an individual exercise for the student to record and submit. Following the completion of exercise #16 in late April, the top-scoring students in each choir were eligible to participate in the semi-final round. The semi-finals were completed as an open round (the students in the choirs serving as spectators), with the top three students in each choir advancing to the final round.

The students eligible to participate in the final round of competition included:

  • Phoebe Burgis ’23
  • Ella Chamberlain ’23 (did not participate in the finals)
  • Nicole Dai ’23
  • Mac Froedge ’25
  • Benjamin Iken ’24
  • Intisar Iqbal ’24
  • Amisha Poojari ’25
  • Rebecca Sennaraj ’24
  • Joe Walsh ’25

After four rounds of competition, Iken, Sennaraj, and Walsh were the remaining three finalists.  After performing in the challenging fifth round, Sennaraj and Walsh were tied. Following Iken’s performance, he scored 1½ points higher, and he was named the 2023 Grand Champion.

(l-r) Joe Walsh ’25, Ben Iken ’24 (Grand Champion), and Rebecca Sennaraj ’24

“We complete three or four sight-singing exercises in class every day. Kids will balk at it from time to time, asking, ‘Do we have to sight-sing today?’ My response is the same every single time, “no, you get to sight-sing today.’ I know too many choir directors that don’t teach sight-singing or think it’s too time-consuming, when in the end, if your students are strong readers, you save time because you aren’t always having to pound out notes at the piano,” Self said. “I shared with the seniors on their last day of classes that over the last four years, they have completed a total of 1,396 sight-singing exercises over their four years in choir. That is a lot of sight-singing examples!”

“The Iken family must be a family of competitive sight-singers! Ben’s sibling, London ’22, was named the Grand Champion three years in a row.  The Iken name continues to be the only name occupying the Sight-Singing Bee plaque in the choir room.”

Congratulations to all the participants!

Sight-singing Finalists: (front row, l-r) Nicole Dai ’23, Phoebe Burgis ’23, Rebecca Sennaraj ’24. (back row, l-r) Ben Iken ’24, Intisar Iqbal ’24, Joe Walsh ’25, Amisha Poojari ’25, Mac Froedge ’25