Rachel Knappenberger


Photo courtesy of Wesley Works.

Sydnie Howard, Former Deputy Features Editor

From the moment she was born, music has played a fundamental part in EHS senior Rachel Knappenberger’s life, and had a key role in shaping the person she is today. 

Spending her senior year in a pandemic, having many opportunities taken, Knappenberger persevered through the toughest of times and concluded her successful and inspirational high school experience at Emmaus.

Stinger: How did you get involved in singing? 

Knappenberger: Throughout my life, music has played a fundamental part in my development into the person I am now. From a young age, my parents could tell I always wanted to be the center of attention and I loved being in front of people all of the time. I got involved in singing very young with my church’s youth choir, and soon after I got involved in theater at Civic Theater in Allentown. Both of these activities then led me to want to take voice lessons to gain the skills necessary to sing in a healthy way. And pretty much the rest is history, I became this musical theater gal who loved to sing her heart out which then developed into a love for opera. 

Stinger: How has singing gotten you through high school, what opportunities has it given you?

Knappenberger: I would say I have had quite the journey vocally through high school and many of the events I have been involved in has helped me grow and shape into my voice today. I would have to thank Ms. Cortez for providing opportunities to find my classical voice through more traditional choir pieces and also providing such fine singing events such as singing in The Vatican and throughout Italy, Carnegie Hall, and fabulous Cathedrals. These chances to sing in these immense and beloved spaces proved to me I had such an appreciation for these spaces and acoustics, and singing such beautiful songs in these facilities only reinforced that I want to be singing beautiful music in beautiful facilities than being in a theater belting my heart out. Speaking of theater, the high school gave me many opportunities to get to be in some of our fabulous productions, Hamlet, West Side Story, Les Miserables, Our Town, Hello Dolly, and Tuck Everlasting. The dedication put into these fabulous productions has also influenced me to always strive for new ideas and perfection as the work Mrs. Kuebler and Ms. Cortez put into the shows is admirable. But overall through my high school experience, I have received many opportunities to sing and perform, which has also allowed me to develop more into myself.

Stinger: Were you hybrid or remote — or a mix at some point?

Knappenberger: I have been fully remote almost the whole year (excluding like a week and a half I was in school). For someone like me, it’s pretty much a waste of time to go back into the school since my senior year was very light with classwork and during my day I have many periods of time that I don’t have a class. I would love to come back, but unless I could have a facility where I could use my downtime to practice my singing, it wouldn’t be worth it. So I have been remote ever since and let me tell you I hate it!

Stinger: What’s been the toughest part about your senior year? How about the easiest part? 

Knappenberger: Probably my toughest part of senior year was pretty much up until this month I had received nothing to look forward to or be involved in from the high school since they hardly allowed the arts to exist. At least now there is the musical to look forward to and that will be fantastic, but like for me I didn’t get to do a choir tour, no PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association), a Fall play (I mean we did a monologue thing but really not the same), pretty much everything I had been looking forward to completely taken away. Honestly, it was miserable. I hated that my passion was not being provided by the school but yet sports were allowed to function with no problem. It just felt as if the world wanted to kill the arts and creativity. Also, I would say another hardship from this year was not seeing friends ever. The connections that were made through choirs or through shows completely vanished and I felt more disconnected than ever with the Emmaus choir ensembles and theater department. The easiest part of the year was definitely my course load. I had planned since freshman year I would take the easiest senior year I could to ensure I had time to do my very rigorous college application process since I was going for voice performance in college. So I would say the fact I hardly have any work to do for college has been pretty nice.

Stinger: What are your plans after high school? Will you pursue singing in college?

Knappenberger: Next year I will be attending Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music for a voice performance major, specifically focusing on opera. I will be studying with Heidi Grant Murphy who I am really excited to study under. And post-college I am hoping to go to grad school to continue in my vocal education and then hopefully by then start performing as a classical singer anywhere I can!

Stinger: In what ways have you changed since freshman year?

Knappenberger: I think I have definitely changed since freshman year not only vocally but also as a person. First, at the start of my high school career, I had been all musical theater, that was my love and my life, and I was dead certain that I was going to pursue musical theater. While I still hold some love for musical theater, I quickly realized that this art form wouldn’t fit me best and that my love was for singing. I also realized that dancing was not my strong suit so I just knew if I wanted to succeed it would be better to pursue something I shine at rather than something that I’m good at two out of the three skills needed in that field. I believe I also have changed since freshman year by becoming my own advocate a lot more. Over my first two years in high school I had certain situations with some of the academic teachers that I was treated in a way I wouldn’t ever want anyone to be treated and yet I said nothing and let the mistreatment continue which both hurt me academically and mentally. But over my last two years, I have learned to have the courage to talk to someone when they are treating you poorly to address it and not just take it. To always make sure you ask questions and not let someone bring you down and make you doubt yourself or perform less than what you can do. 

Stinger: What will you hope to accomplish after high school?

Knappenberger: I hope to pursue classical singing as a career since honestly singing is when I am happiest and it means the world to me. I also hope to eventually teach voice at a collegiate level and help train future generations of singers. I also hope to be able to sing in different countries and get to sing beautiful music as much as I can. 

Stinger: Who was your favorite/ most impactful teacher at Emmaus?

Knappenberger:  My favorite teacher at Emmaus has been Ms. Cortez. Without her I wouldn’t have discovered my true voice and my vocal passion. She has helped provide performance opportunities many people our age in high school would never receive. I also would say my most impactful teacher overall is my voice teacher Patricia Risley, who has helped me so much grow into a classical singer! She had helped me learn many of the vocal techniques I needed to learn for proper singing in operatic works.

Stinger: What do you want to be remembered for at Emmaus?

Knappenberger: I want to be remembered for being the most successful alumni from Emmaus through my vocal successes. I also want to be remembered for how dedicated I was to music throughout my high school career.