Munguya began using her singing voice at age 3

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
She may be walking on crutches after an accident in the choir room earlier this month, but Mindy Munguya doesn’t need any crutches when it comes to singing.

“She has an incredible singing voice,” said Dave Clark, Hillsboro High School choir director. “She has a beautiful soprano voice, a sweet personality, and she’s pleasant to be around.”

The HHS senior was jumping off the third riser earlier this month in the choir room when she injured her knee.

“I went to the doctor and was told I had torn my meniscus,” Munguya said, referring to a piece of cartilage that lies between the weight-bearing-joint surfaces of the femur and the tibia. She had surgery on her knee Feb. 13 and returned to a full-time class schedule the following week.

The nurturing of Munguya’s natural talent and her vocal experiences can be traced to the tender age of 3 when her family was living in Lehigh.

“Our family would go from church to church and sing some of our old songs from Africa,” she said.

Mother Georgina and father Arnot were both born in Zambia, Africa. Georgina is a registered nurse working at St. Luke Living Center in Marion, and Arnot is a productions manager/auditor at Fiber Dynamics Inc. in Wichita.

The family moved to Hillsboro when Munguya was 5, and siblings include two brothers-one older and one younger-and one older sister. Munguya sang at her sister’s wedding.

In the seventh and eighth grades, students had a choice of singing in choir or watching the CNN news program. Munguya chose choir “because watching CNN, the news, is pretty boring,” she said with a shy smile.

“I’ve always liked to sing, even when I was little,” Munguya said. “In middle school, I liked to sing a lot, but I think the time I realized I was half-way good was my freshman year.”

That’s when words such as pitch and breath support gained new meaning.

“I realized it just kind of came naturally to me,” Munguya said.

She is a member of Girl’s Glee, Sprit-N-Celebration and concert choir at HHS. The Glee group and choir meet three times a week and S-N-C meets twice a week.

Of all the nuances in a choir setting in high school, Munguya said learning the music is the most challenging task.

“Everyone gets frustrated because it’s so hard,” Munguya said.

“Some people may have a tendency to have it if they’ve heard it once. And for other people, it’s harder to pick our something new. It’s frustrating because everyone’s not at the same musical maturity as everyone who’s in S-N-C.”

Although some students can sight-read a piece, Munguya usually needs to hear the music a couple of times on the piano and sing it a couple of times before she feels confident with the composition.

“But, I think I’ve quickened up my pace in being able to understand and read music throughout the years,” she said.

As a senior, she said she is expected to be a leader in the choir room.

“I’m a pretty soft-spoken person,” Munguya said. “I just mainly lead by example. I’m not the kind of person telling somebody to do something because I’m older. I don’t see any point in that. If you set a good example, people will notice and take charge with you.”

Munguya said her background in piano has been helpful in her vocal-music education.

“Playing the piano or any other instrument helps people understand the music,” she said. “You know the different dynamics and the increments. And I’m more the kind of person, once I know the music, I can help other people so they can hear me to get on pitch.”

During her freshman and sophomore years, Munguya performed solos at regional, league and state contests.

“When I went to state, I walked away with a ‘II’ both times,” she said. “It was a good experience, but I didn’t like preparing for the solo.”

This year, she plans to contribute as a group member at contests.

“We’ll go to league, regionals and, if we make ‘I’s, to state,” Munguya said. “Then, this May, we’re going to the Cavalcade of Music Festival in Colorado.”

Performing with the choir groups at music competitions and festivals is a more comfortable atmosphere for her.

“It’s more relaxing because you know the spotlight isn’t all on you,” Munguya said. “If you get a ‘II’ it’s not your fault, it’s all the 16 other people around you, too. But in the end, it’s all worth it.”

Keeping her grade-point-average above a 3.0, her favorite subject in school right now is anatomy and physiology. That should fit right in with the nursing program she plans to enroll in at Newman University in Wichita next fall.

The choir director at Newman encouraged her to try out for the choral program, Munguya said.

“He said he noticed I have a higher range than what I give myself credit for,” she said. “So I’m going to try to work on expanding that.”

Why does she want to continue singing once she’s left the choir room at high school?

“I guess it’s something I really like,” Munguya said. “It’s an easy way to express yourself.”

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