Zachary Sigafoes is your typical college kid in that he works at a restaurant as a cook and dishwasher during the summer to save money for the upcoming school year.
Where Sigafoes differs from many of his college peers is his recent participation with a world-class concert choir that was awarded three gold medals on the international stage.
Sigafoes, a native of Roulette and soon-to-be junior at Mansfield University (MU), recently returned from the 2014 World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia. Sigafoes and fellow members of the Mansfield University Concert Choir won three gold medals at the mid-July event.
The event, known as the “Olympics for Choirs,” is the largest international choral competition and attracts thousands of singers with over 500 choral groups from around the world.
The Mansfield choir medaled in the sacred music, mixed youth and spiritual categories.
Gold medals were awarded to groups that received scores above 80 during the competition.
In commenting on the the choir’s above-average performance, Sigafoes said he and his fellow performers were pleased with the results.
“We were very surprised with our outcomes,” Sigafoes said, noting they were most pleased with placing third in the world in the mixed youth category. The MU choir also finished second in the spiritual category, behind the Stellenbosch University Choir of South Africa which is the number-one ranked choir in the world.
The MU choir, under the direction of Peggy Dettwiler, comprised 54 students who were accompanied by eight faculty members and volunteers. In addition to the competition in Riga, the group performed in churches and visited Lubeck and Berlin, Warsaw, Poland and Vilnius, Lithuania.
“So many students have commented on their life-changing experiences traveling together and sharing our music with people from all over the world,” Dettwiler said. “These students were wonderful ambassadors for MU and the USA.”
Sigafoes voiced similar thoughts on the event.
“It was a wonderful experience and I did a lot of stuff,” Sigafoes said. “I was there for two weeks, there were one or two days where I was actually able to enjoy the tour and not worry about having to sing.
“And even when I was touring we would perform in the evening in some church,” he added. “We woke up everyday and shared music, and enriched the lives of those around us.”
Sigafoes noted that he was most impressed with tours that took place in Poland.
“One of the favorite things I got to see was the Uprising Museum in Warsaw, Poland,” he recalled. “It was really interesting because they don’t teach you (about it) in school; it has to do a lot with the start of World War II when Germany invaded Poland …”
He said he was also impressed with the Fryderyk Chopin Museum in Warsaw which honors the famous Polish composer and virtuoso pianist.
Sigafoes said he also enjoyed meeting members of the Stellenbosch Choir because of their ranking in the world. Although his group beat Stellenbosch in one event, they knew they were up against the best.
“It’s hard to beat perfection,” he said with respect. “But we strive for excellence.”
Sigafoes said that since returning from the trip, he has settled back into his regular routine.
He is also preparing for a small role in a Wellsboro community theater musical production of “How to Succeed in Business.”
After that he’ll begin rehearsing for his lead in an opera production in Wellsboro.
“I have a lot of work left to do,” he commented.
Majoring in music education, he hopes to teach music either in an elementary school or high school after graduation.
“I feel that if I’m able to not only be a music educator, but a teacher for them, I can build a better set of morals and show them how to use music in their daily lives,” Sigafoes said.
He noted that his former teachers at the Port Allegany School District, Ken and Annamaria Meyers in particular, were strong influences in his music education.
Until he returns to school and performances, Sigafoes is spending his down time working at the Perkins Restaurant outside of Mansfield.
“I am actually a cook and dishwasher; I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, which is exciting,” he said while joking that he is a singing cook at this point in his life.
He said his spare time is also used for staying in shape by weight lifting and running.
“I’m actually getting back in shape by running and working out a lot more, but that’s just for my personal health,” he said. “I really, really enjoy fitness … because singers are actually athletes of the voice.”
Sigafoes, the son of Beth and Donald Sigafoes of Roulette, sings tenor and also plays the euphonium, keyboard and guitar.
More information can be obtained on the World Choir Games by visiting interkultur.com/world-choir-games online.