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Brayden Trefethen speaks on his experience singing in the hallways

Through the echoes of the halls, Senior Brayden Trefethen sings the chorus of “Butterflies” by Michael Jackson. He said it’s his favorite song to sing.

“This is the song I like to sing no matter what: it’s called “Butterflies” by Michael Jackson. I like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, those are like my two favorite [singers].” Trefethen said. 

Trefethen said he began singing in the hallways during his freshman year. Singing, Trefethen said, was a way to counter the COVID-19 isolation between him and his friends. 

“Because of COVID, I had lost a lot of my other friends since most of them were on the [alternating] day,” he said. “I couldn’t see them and I was lonely, [singing] just made me happy during that time.” 

But even as COVID isolation ended and things got back to normal, Trefethen kept singing. He said that his relationship with singing and music in particular had always been strong; however, the experiences he had—singing in the hallways during the COVID schedule—strengthened this bond. 

“I just love singing. It’s euphoric when every element of music is perfect and in that instance, I can vicariously become a part of something truly special,” he said. “I sing just when the songs are good, and I’m in the moment. I’m kinda always listening to music, when I’m at home I listen to music after finishing my homework.”

Over his four years of experience singing in the hallways, Trefethen said he has encountered many different reactions from his peers and teachers.

“I’ve had a lot of bad [encounters],” he said. “A lot of the time people are just mean or they make fun of you. They just don’t get it, so they don’t know how to react; sometimes they’ll record you or just try to tease and make fun of you. 

“I’ve gotten compliments before,” Trefethen said he also acknowledges the positive attention drawn to him. “I think some people like it, and that makes me happy so it’s nice to hear. Some of my teachers like it and some don’t, and I’ve heard some talk about my singing as well.”

Senior Alexander “Alex” Katz said he has heard Trefethen in the hallways during passing periods. 

“I see him a couple times every week, and I think our schedules don’t align. Even then, I can still hear him singing three to four times [a week],” Katz said. 

Katz said that despite his sometimes brief encounters with Trefethen in the halls, he always brings a smile to his face. 

“I’m not really doing anything special in the hallways. I’m just walking to get to my next class, so for me personally it doesn’t have a dramatic impact on my day,” Katz said. “It’s always good to see him though, sometimes I’d give him a high-five or something like that but that’s it.

He also spoke about some of the negative comments Trefethen receives. Katz said that he didn’t understand why other people in this school would be bothered by the singing in the hallways.

“Not to demean anyone but if he’s singing and walking in the hallway, it’s not like he’s trying to sing at you or towards you, he’s just doing it for himself,” Katz said. “I don’t think he’s disturbing the peace, it’s just his way of expressing himself.

“And honestly, the hallways are always pretty loud. I don’t understand someone saying that they’re not fine with his singing but they’re fine in the hallways without it,” Katz added. “The noise level is basically comparable either way.

“People should be allowed to express who they are and what their passions are as long as they’re not trying to actively be malicious,” Katz said. “As long as you’re not disturbing others in a really dramatic, flashy way, then I think that it’s perfectly fine to express yourself.” 

Director of choirs Kathrine Kouns said students such as Trefethen who choose to freely express themselves provide this school with elevated spirits. The indifference to being judged, Kouns said, is a quality that should be promoted more within CHS walls. She said Trefethen’s singing can influence other students, as his actions encourage his peers to express themselves with less concern for judgment.

“I love that Trefethen can be a source of inspiration for other students,” she said. “Sometimes we can see teenagers in particular (are) so afraid; afraid to be themselves, afraid to say what they like, take a risk, speaking up or showing the world who they really are. I don’t know whether it’s because of the fear of being judged or looking foolish, but I think it stems from the cruelty of middle school. When students can show this sort of reckless abandonment of “this is who I am” it’s admirable, while for those who hold back, it’s not only sad for that individual but makes others lose out on knowing what you have to offer.”

Katz also said that the small gestures of singing in the hallway can spark inspiration to many students of this school. 

“[His singing is] really inspiring. I think a lot of people like to create things but are too afraid for other people to see their creations, but [Trefethen] really puts himself out there,” Katz said. “I think it’s pretty inspiring. For me, I have a hard time expressing myself sometimes and he does it really naturally. He’s just doing what he loves so I respect it.”

Trefethen sings at the Orchestra Council party. Trefethen said he likes to sing in during special occasions as well. (Isaac Hsu)

Kouns said there are many benefits to singing. Many teenagers use different outlets such as singing to cool down. Due to the many details that singing requires, she said students oftentimes stay more focused and block outside distractions while doing it.

“Breath support, technique, placement, muscles, annunciation, dynamics and all these other things; if you’re truly thinking about all of these things it’s a pretty easy way to eliminate anything else going on in your brain. Singing truly turns off the noise, and teenagers nowadays are just hungry to turn it off for a minute and escape for a little bit,” Kouns said.

Kouns said a singer’s location and volume can convey different emotions to their audience. 

“There are certain places that echo better than others [in CHS hallways]. It depends on the hard surfaces, if you’re in an area with higher ceilings and more hard surfaces or even domed ceilings, you’re going to get that echo,” she said. “Quite often, stairwells also provide great echoes. 

“As you’re walking around in the hallways and it’s crowded, you might notice some places get louder than others; a lot of times it has to do with those acoustics,” she added. “Similar to storytelling or reading a book, you have action and excitement; new characters and development with twists and turns along the way which all call for different expressions. I think that as we sing with our volume and use our surroundings to our advantage, [singing] is similar to that of a story.” 

Trefethen spoke about his own emotions when he started singing in the hallways. Contrary to popular belief, he said he did not possess the confidence in singing that he has today. 

“When I first started, I was nervous and then I soon realized nobody actually cared and any anxiety I had grew less,” he said. “Singing means a lot. It’s kind of like playing an instrument. I think it’s not as rewarding as playing an instrument, but I think you can still feel good while doing it. Music is a very spiritual thing to [me].”

Katz said that despite not having vocal training, Trefethen’s singing is very pleasant.

“It’s kind of unfair to compare him to an actual high school choir, but for one dude just doing his thing, he’s doing it pretty well,” Katz said. “It’s not like every note is off key, and he’s not butchering the songs either. Obviously, he’s singing to himself but it’s pretty good sometimes.”

Kouns said singing can also help to boost not just the singer’s spirit but his peers’ as well.

“It’s awesome that [Trefethen] sings out loud,” she said. “I think it shows a sense of confidence and freedom of expression that sadly, most teenagers don’t have. We live in a society where everyone is always nervous to be judged or afraid to look silly, and I think it’s great that he’s willing to sing. 

“Most of the time I feel that we don’t normally break into song unless affiliated with positive emotion—maybe because we’re happy, joyful or excited—so isn’t it great to have more positivity shared around our school,” Kouns said. “It’s also harder to be sad when you’re around someone who’s singing; if you walked by with a student singing at the top of his lungs, you might kind of give him a side glance but at the same time you’d probably also smile. I think he’s great. He’s sharing that positivity and probably doesn’t realize how many people he’s raising up in the process.”

Kouns spoke more broadly about the benefits of singing as a whole. 

“I think that I have always been able to find more emotion and expression when you take words that we speak and attach them to music,” she said. “It’s one of the unique things about singing that happens other than any other music form. I think it’s an exciting thing to be able to teach students how to sing better because then they not only get more in tune with their own emotions but inspire that in others when they perform.

“I think any artist of different forms that can help allow people to tap into their own talent is great,” she added. “Anything that’s going to help people become more in tune with a way to express themselves, whether it’s vocally or visually, [people] that can help discover who we are, should be promoted. I think whatever inspires you to tap into expressing yourself is great.”

While Trefethen said his sources of inspiration are Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, Kouns said Trefethen himself is also a source of inspiration to other students. For his part, Trefethen said that despite the mixed reactions between other students and teachers, he wants to foster a better environment at this school through his singing. 

“I’ve never really seen the direct effects of my singing, but if it makes others happy, how could I not want my singing to be more for others?” he said. “I really do hope I’m able to make other people feel more open and free. I also hope that in some way, I make CHS a more open and accepting environment for fellow students.” 

Katz also said that Trefethen can inspire students at this school to persevere and follow through with their passions.

“A lot of kids, they have these passions but they end up not really following through with

them because of school, work and time constraints. Trefethen’s really inspiring because he really shows that even if you have all these things, you still have time to fit it in,” Katz said.

Kouns said despite being unconventional, Trefethen’s actions bring courage, and influence those who admire the student in a positive manner.

“There’s a saying that I love that goes, ‘Go out on a limb; that’s where the fruit is’, you have to take risks and be willing to show others who you are,” she said. “I think when students can see someone else like a peer who is their own age, who isn’t afraid of stepping out of that [expectation], being able to do what they want and being happy without hurting anyone grants permission for others to do the same.”

Senior Brayden Trefethen sings in the halls. He said that he loves singing despite critics. (Nora Mariano)
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