Vanessa Unger was hired as the choir director for Seaside High School in June, and since then the first-year teacher's time has been consumed by the minutiae of preparing for a school year.

Let's just say she's ready to hear some students singing.

Unger is looking forward to "just getting to know the kids," she said, "getting to know the students, because that's the best part of choir."

Unger has been passionate about choir for years. She first got the urge to join choir as a kindergartener,when  a local high school chorus performed at her elementary school.

The experience was such a lasting one for Unger that she hopes the Seaside choir can also perform for local grade school students.

"We're going to try and do an elementary school tour," she said. "It's a really good recruiting tool. It's a really cool thing."

Unger's passion for choir continued to grow and was bolstered by her time at Milwaukie's Rex Putnam High School, which has finished in the top four at the Oregon state competition 17 times in 23 appearances.

"I came from a really strong choir program," Unger said.

Putnam even captured the Oregon 5A state choir championship in Unger's senior year.

The state choir competition in Oregon is "intense," according to Unger, and she's looking forward to her students competing in the spring league competitions, which are the beginning of the journey that can culminate in a state championship.

But in her first year of teaching after receiving her bachelor's and master's degrees from Portland State University, Unger has set goals that are more modest than a state berth.

"Surviving," Unger said with a smile when asked about her goals for the 2013-14 school year. "Having fun, allowing myself to enjoy this ... My goal is to enjoy every moment right now, in the moment."

Unger will have plenty of moments to experience, because her schedule will be awfully busy: She'll be directing the seventh- and eighth-grade choir, the high school chamber choir and the high school jazz choir, while also finding time to teach drama at both the high school and the middle school.

The high school chamber choir, in particular, will perform a diverse set of songs, Unger said.

"We're going to touch on a lot of genres in chamber choir," she added.

The Seaside High School chamber choir has about 39 members and the high school's jazz choir, 14. Unger hopes that, as the year goes on, she can help boost that number.

"As far as a 4A school, (the choir) could be bigger," Unger said. "But I'm going to try and bulk it up, get more butts in the seats."

The Seaside High School choirs will perform a joint show with the school's bands on Nov. 20. They also plan to perform in the community as the year rolls on.


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