POPS Senior Profile: Frank Mendes did not always love to sing

Special to The Swellesley Report courtesy of the Wellesley High School Bradford and Parents of Performing Students (POPS). This is one in a series of POPS Senior Profiles we’ll be publishing.


When Frank Mendes ’23 was little, he refused to sing. Whether it was the ABCs at daycare or music class in third grade, Mendes was determined to keep his mouth shut. Yet somehow, since then, Mendes abandoned his childhood defiance and discovered his love for choir. Now, as a senior at Wellesley High School, Mendes is known by his community as an accomplished singer and passionate leader. 

 “Frank Mendes has been among the most active and accomplished singers in Wellesley High School history,” said High School Choral Director, Kevin McDonald 

Since sixth grade, when Mendes first joined choir, he has put hard work into refining his technique and mastering even the most challenging of pieces. From Brooks Brothers to Concert Choir, Keynotes Singers, Rice Street Singers, and Inchordination A Cappella, Mendes brings artistry to every corner of the high school music department. 

“I’ve always joined every choir or singing group I possibly could,” said Mendes. 

Frank Mendes (left) and Nika Shabestari (right) before the Acatober concert. Photo courtesy of Frank Mendes.
Frank Mendes (left) and Nika Shabestari before the Acatober concert. Photo courtesy of Frank Mendes.

 

Outside of school, Mendes is also a member of the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus of Tenors and Basses, Chamber Choir, and Solo Artists Program. He has been a part of the MMEA Senior District Chorus, All-State Chorus, and perhaps most impressively, the All-National Choir. All-Nationals is a yearly gathering of the best 240 high school singers in the country. This year, selected students met in Washington, D.C. and got to sing together under conductor Frances Fonza for just a few days. 

“It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by so many other harmony fanatics from all over the nation,” said Mendes.

Mendes’ path through Wellesley’s Performing Arts department has been, in every sense of the word, epic. He started choir in middle school for the same reason most students did: the seventh-grade Trills and Thrills Six Flags trip. He quickly learned, though, that he had something the other 12-year-old boys did not—a low voice. Soon, he found himself a valued member of the prepubescent ensemble as the Brooks Brothers’ only bass. 

“Initially I was the low voice—it was an interesting challenge. I wasn’t very good at [singing] until, arguably, sophomore year,” said Mendes.

Apart from his interest in experiencing Superman™ The Ride, Mendes attributes his initial involvement in singing to Wellesley Middle School Choir Director, Lauren Connors. 

“She was the first person to encourage me to audition for Junior Districts in seventh grade, and that encouragement set in motion everything I’ve done since,” said Mendes.

When Mendes started high school, he was quick to join the men’s choir, multiple select ensembles, and an a cappella group. His love for the rehearsal process and the working-through-challenges part of singing has kept him motivated through strenuous rehearsals and difficult repertoire. Mendes does not turn away from difficulty, instead, he leans into challenge as a necessary step towards success. 

“I live for choir rehearsals,” he said. “There’s something captivating about having to sight read a piece, and it being pure chaos, only to work on it together, and hear the individual voices starting to lock into the piece, and to each other.”

To Mendes, those moments, when everything comes together and the arrangement finally “works,” are exhilarating. When last fall Inchordination A Cappella performed their arrangement of “Movement” by Hozier—and Mendes soloed it—Chordz had one of those moments. 

“It was so cool to see an arrangement I’d worked on for months finally coming to life. The first time it worked in rehearsal, everyone crescendoed into like this big moment, and Izzy Pavano and I just smiled at each other from across the room,” said Mendes. 

Andy Shen ’23, a friend of Mendes and member of Renegade A Cappella, recalls how inspiring Mendes’ performance of “Movement” was. To Shen, the Acatober concert, and Mendes’ solo, felt like an important moment of success after almost three years of COVID-19.

“It felt kind of like the culmination of everything we’ve gone through, to hear him sing it [Movement] so well and so passionately… it’s definitely been a journey,” said Shen. 

Partway through Mendes’ freshman year, the first COVID-19 outbreak occurred. Students were sent home for three weeks and told to be careful. The next three years were rough. Social distancing, Zoom classes, and, for students like Mendes and Shen, outdoor masked rehearsals became the norm.  

“It was a strange experience. We kind of just weren’t singing for the longest time,” said Mendes

The years of pandemic hit WPS’ singing departments pretty hard. For obvious reasons, singing in large groups became difficult, and New England winters made outdoor solutions a challenge. 

“We had 300 [students in the department] at some point, and now we’re down to about 150,” said Mendes.

For Mendes, the massive loss of students wasn’t entirely depressing. Rather, he saw it as an opportunity to lean even more into community. 

“Rebuilding our community became something I dedicated myself to,” said Mendes.

Frank Mendes (left) alongside fellow Inchordination A Cappella upperclassmen. Photo courtesy of Frank Mendes.
Frank Mendes (left) alongside fellow Inchordination A Cappella upperclassmen. Photo courtesy of Frank Mendes.

 

Peers and teachers describe Mendes as a resilient worker and musical “powerhouse.” As an upperclassman and community leader, he mentors students of all levels in a kind and deliberate way. 

“Frank is very wise when it comes to singing, just being around him makes you a better singer,” said fellow Chordz A Cappella member, Nika Shabestari ’25

To Mendes, being music leader of Inchordination A Cappella means collaboration and thoughtful coaching. Zoha Rehan ’23, a co-leader of Chordz, attests to Mendes’ creative approach and seamless song arrangements. 

“He’s never unwilling to try something, even if it’s a different genre of music that not everyone really likes, he’s always down to try it,” said Rehan.

Like most WHS seniors, Mendes has spent the last few months thinking about his post-high school life.  Mendes plans to attend the University of Michigan in the fall and pursue a dual degree in business administration and vocal performance.  

“I applied to a mix of music and business degrees, or some combination of the two. I might end up doing something like nonprofit music management and some singing on the side,” said Mendes. “I wouldn’t consider applying to a college that didn’t have a large singing community—this is really my home.”

Article written by WHS Bradford’s Features Editor Annabelle Nolan ’23 and Arts Editor Maddie Merowitz ’23.


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