Stephen Donlon at a performance (Photo courtesy of Stephen Donlon)
By Advait Sathe, staff writer, and Issac Banuelos, staff writer
Go to any choir concert, and among the high pitched altos and sopranos, one loud bass voice rises above the rest. Meet Stephen Donlon, a senior at Maria Carrillo High School who has been singing in the MCHS choir’s bass section for four years. He began taking drama classes in Rincon Valley Middle School when he heard that, as he told the Prensa, “The middle school program was pretty much a filter into men’s choir freshman year.” He likes the energy in this class and he thinks that there are “good vocals, great chemistry between the people.”
When Donlon first joined the choir, he was the only freshman, but then in sophomore year, “I really had to start thinking about myself as an individual because we’re just so separate and focused on our individual parts [during online learning].” However, through the struggles, Donlon believes that he grew a lot as a sophomore, developing many skills as the learning style changed.
“It was a really rough time for me because I could only really focus on myself when I was often so sad about not hearing others around me, just from a screen that I often just only cared about myself, my own performance, and didn’t really venture to listen to others at that point,” he added.
A big part of his growth in choir stemmed from his choir teacher, Gail Bowers. Bowers has always supported him throughout his time in choir, and has helped him in fixing some of the things he did wrong. She gave him personal tips, worked with him to improve the bad singing habits he had picked up during the COVID-19 pandemic, and helped him overcome some of his fears. In choir class, she gave him the insight that he needed to progress as a student and a dedicated member of the choir program, among them advice about his singing and how he could best function as a part of the larger group.
When Donlon first came to Carrillo, he had met one or two friends, but as he got more involved with choir, he found a lot of new ones. He thinks of “so many of my friends now as friends that I’ve made through choir and friends that I hang out with now, because choir really brought us together.” Now that he is a senior, Donlon is constantly “trying [his] best to be a good mentor to everyone in the choir who needs someone who can just support them and help them.” Donlon feels it is important to be a role model to younger choir members, as upperclassmen once were to him. He also feels that he is responsible for encouraging those who are doing well and working hard to keep going.
In addition to being in choir, Donlon is also a very involved actor at Carrillo. For example, he is in Drama Club and has not missed performing in a show since freshman year. He is inspired the most by his fellow actors, and says, “Getting to work one-on-one with people has always been [his] favorite thing to do as an actor.”
Donlon’s favorite broadway show is Hadestown, and his favorite character from Hadestown is Patrick Page’s character, Hades. Furthermore, he notes that there are very few low-bass characters and roles in musicals these days because singers with higher pitches project better on stage. However, he also believes that when you get a low-bass character, meaning a character with a really deep voice, like Hades, it comes out to the audience better. Donlon also thinks that Patrick Page, the actor who plays Hades, has a “triple threat,” or a sort of feeling where the character can dance, can act, can sing, and generally just do it all on stage and still be an incredibly dynamic character. He doubts he can be a “triple threat” because he lacks the skills in dance, but if he was offered the opportunity to play Hades, he would “not turn that down.” He also hopes that when he goes to college, he can “find some sort of drama club or choir there, or maybe even an acapella group.”
Donlon plans to double major in music and history because he’s “always wanted to pursue history as just sort of [his] academic interest.” He finds his interest also grounded in the love of “looking into the past, at past figures, past moments in human history. Things humans have done, just literal things we’ve done that have shaped the course of our own lives and have led us to where we are today, which just is incredible to me.”
He hopes that when he leaves Carrillo, he will be remembered for his acting and singing. “I just want to leave and feel like I’m still part of the community that we’ve created in choir.” He also hopes that he will be remembered for the other ways he has contributed to Carrillo, such as being a responsible leader and making new Pumas feel at home.
Donlon says that the favorite part of any show he has acted in is the ending of his “first show at Anne Frank. Just the ending of every show. It’s such a triumphant feeling. And just experiencing that for the first time was probably the best feeling I’ve ever had after a show at Carrillo.”