MUSIC VIEW: The Women of Skylark
BY FARAH F. JADRAN | PHOTO BY JON B. PETERSEN
Some of us sing in the shower, in the car or along with our iPods as we walk about. And judging by personal experience, some of us should stick to just that.
However, for some, singing at a professional level comes naturally. For the quartet, “Skylark,” coming together naturally was a part of the beauty and simplicity shared among its members: Amy Manley, lead; Barbara Wright, bass; Sky Harris, tenor; Kathy Zubal-Strang, baritone 2. The group formed two years ago although all four ladies have been singing in the same chorus, Spirit of Syracuse. While they haven’t been singing together for very long, the group competed as an official Sweet Adelines International Quartet in the Region 16 Contest in April 2011 and placed ninth out of 17 quartets. The group overcame many challenges including having one member dealing with a medical scare, which prevented the quartet from practicing for more than four months. “For the first time competing together, we thought that was so awesome,” said Amy Manley, Skylark’s lead. The group now has its sights set on improving its scores in this year’s Region 16 Contest on Friday, April 27, at the Mulroy Civic Center in Syracuse.
Each member is not only dedicated to the quartet, but they also maintain family commitments and full-time jobs. With a full-plate of a career, Skylark tenor Sky Harris says the quartet is a “priority” in her life.” Harris teaches chorus and general music at Chestnut Middle School and she also serves as the assistant director of the Liverpool High School Marching Band and Brass Ensemble. “You make time for something like that because it fills you up and makes you a better person everywhere else,” Harris said.
Skylark features women who have four different singing backgrounds in that some members have been singing “since they were born” and others started later in life around high school age. Skylark’s lead, Manley, only began singing 10 years ago when she joined the Spirit of Syracuse. “I never, ever thought I would be able to sing in a quartet,” said Manley, a director and producer at WCNY TV. “They [Skylark] have been so wonderful sharing their knowledge and gifts with me. They helped me grow as a singer and a performer more than I ever thought possible.”
Bringing the bass to Skylark is Barbara Wright, an administrator/manager for the federal law enforcement. Wright has the utmost admiration for her singing mates because they all offer unique talents and abilities. She sees tenor Harris as a “musical genius and incredibly gifted,” and admires Manley’s diligence and dedication to singing. Lastly, she enjoys Kathy H. Zubal-Strang’s long-time quartet experience since she has previously competed with another group. “She keeps us on-task during rehearsal, and on our toes during a show because we never know what crazy thing she’ll throw into a performance,” Wright said on Zubal-Strang’s leadership.
The “laughter and joy” the group creates is Zubal-Strang’s favorite part about Skylark. “We work as hard as we play and we find joy in making music and spending time with one another,” she said. Zubal-Strang, the director of administration for the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, has been singing since she was in third grade. After graduating from SU, she was no longer a part of the Hendricks Chapel Choir, and for years she was without a group. “I had no group, so my mother dragged me to a Spirit of Syracuse rehearsal and the rest is history!”
With all the laughs and fun they have singing comes the Sweet Adelines international Region 16 Contest, which is a top priority for Skylark. “And the bottom line is that singing together is something we not only see as a priority,” said Sky Harris. “We see it as an essential part of our lives and who we are.”
Listen to the women of Skylark sing on YouTube and visit their site at www.spiritofsyracuse.com/quartets.php.