Four Months for a Few Minutes: Musicians Practice Long, Hard Hours for Short All-State Auditions
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A young man steps out from the library. He carries a long, neatly-written sheet of names. As he walks up the steps to the main gym where at least two hundred teens are gathered, a voice yells, “He’s coming!” and the room goes silent.
The man steps onto the bleachers and unscrolls the sheet of names to tape it to the wall. Some students rejoice and cry tears of joy; others, whose names do not appear, cry tears of sadness. All-State auditioners call this the Wailing Wall.
Twenty-four vocal and four band students from West Delaware will audition on Oct. 22 at the high school in hopes of their name being displayed on the Wailing Wall.
A single audition is made up of bits and pieces of songs and/or scales. Vocally, songs range in languages from English to Latin, even Haitian. For some students, pronunciation is tough.
“Our German piece this year was hardest for me,” Kennedy Niles (10) said. “It was difficult to learn, and, honestly, who the heck knows German?”
Vocal director Duane Philgreen and instrumental director Mark Philgreen help students with the language, pronunciation, and other musicality factors. Francie Head from Monticello also contributes to students’ growth.
Throughout the past four months, Davenport and Oelwein high schools, along with colleges such as UNI, offered multiple workshops to help students rehearse the music.
Auditions can be described as a roller coaster of emotions. From stress to delight, every student experienced their ups and downs throughout the process.
“I try not to get overworked,” two-time All-State Choir member Mariah Seeley (11) said. “(I) focus more on self-improvement on singing and the practice time we’ve put into it.”
Junior Ben Litterer, auditioning for the second time, “tries to do (his) best” on audition day and hopes that being accepted into All-State could help him as he applies to college.
Whether the students make it to All-State or not, both music directors and students said they enjoy the experience.
“Students take pride in getting better and going through the process,” Duane Philgreen said. “I truly believe that is a primary goal for students, and being accepted into All-State is just the decoratives on the icing on the cake, like an added bonus to the hard work.”
Not only do students learn musically, but Duane Philgreen also added they “become really close with people they didn’t think they’d get along with or be friends with before.”
Musicians who are accepted into All-State will perform a concert in Ames at the Hilton Coliseum on Nov. 21. The All-State Band includes about 270 to 280 musicians while the Orchestra contains 170 to 180. In contrast, the All-State Chorus contains about 600 singers.
“You can literally feel the energy passing from one student to the next (in the All-State Choir),” Seeley said. “Everyone puts their heart and soul into the music, and, honestly, that’s what it is all about.”