All-State Choir: Local students ace auditions, pack bags for Hot Springs
Hot Springs will be alive with the sound of music next week, and several Carroll County high school students will be adding to the melodies.
Students from both Eureka Springs High School and Green Forest High School auditioned for All-State Choir last week and were selected by the judges to participate in the Arkansas All-State Music Conference at the Hot Springs Convention Center. The conference begins Thursday, Feb. 16 and continues through Saturday, Feb. 18.
A quintet of victorious voices from Green Forest will perform at the conference next week.
Seniors Jason Vasquez, Edgar Hernandez and Cole Armer, junior Ian Quinn and sophomore Dustin Pimentel all qualified for the All-State Choir.
The All-State Choir is divided into three groups: the Male Chorus, the Female Chorus and the Mixed Choir. Vasquez and Pimentel were selected for the Mixed Choir, and Quinn, Hernandez and Armer were selected for the Male Chorus.
The students said the audition process was a bit intimidating because they had to audition in groups of 10 at a time.
“I was pretty nervous,” Vasquez said, “but I ended up getting seventh chair in the Mixed Choir.”
“It can be intimidating,” Armer said, “but, at the same time, you’re confident in what you’ve been practicing.”
Hernandez said the hardest part of rehearsing for the audition was hitting the vowels in the selected pieces. Sometimes the challenge extended beyond the enunciation, Vasquez said. For some pieces, he said, the students had to learn a new language.
“One of the pieces was a French song,” Vasquez said. “It was pretty difficult because it switched time signatures and tempos throughout the song.”
“Just learning the French was hard,” Armer said. “We had to learn another language along with the music.”
Pimentel said the sight-reading portion of the audition was the most difficult in his opinion.
“The sight-reading was probably the toughest. We have to read the notes and sing it on the spot,” he said. “It’s pretty hard.”
Vocals are not the only musical talent among the quintet. Hernandez said that he and Quinn made All-State Band in addition to making All-State Choir.
The only downside of a wide musical range is that students can participate in only one division of the All-State Music Conference.
“It was a very hard decision,” Hernandez said. “I’ll be performing with the All-State Band. I’ve been in band for about seven years, and I’ve come to really enjoy it. It’s my passion.”
The students said they’re looking forward to the conference in Hot Springs next week.
“Getting to skip school for two days is awesome, of course,” Vasquez said. “Plus, you get to enjoy the experience. This is my first time going to All-State.”
“I think hanging out with these guys will be awesome,” Hernandez said.
Pimentel said he is excited to hear the other choirs and ensembles perform on Saturday.
“I’m excited to hear how they sound after working and practicing so hard,” he said.
Choir instructor Amelia Duarte-Black said this year’s All-State Music Conference will be special because it is the 50th anniversary of the organization.
“So they’re going the extra mile for it,” she said.
Duarte-Black said she is thrilled to have five choir students performing at the conference.
“This is the first time in the seven years I’ve been teaching where Green Forest students not only qualified to audition but got selected for this honor,” she said. “I am thankful for it and humbled by their performances.”
While the seniors will be ending their high school music careers on a high note at the conference, a few said they may continue with music into college and beyond.
“I plan to major in instrumental music,” Hernandez said.
“I plan on joining an ensemble at the university I attend,” Vasquez said. “I won’t be majoring in music, but I want to continue participating as an extracurricular.”
A solo soprano from Eureka Springs will be representing the school at the All-State Music Conference in Hot Springs next week.
Junior Ashlynn Lockhart turned up and tuned up to the All-State Choir auditions and earned a spot in the Mixed Choir. Lockhart said the audition process was a challenging one, describing the methodical and melodic work that went into preparing for it.
“I think I had maybe two months to learn all four songs they chose for the audition,” she said. “They didn’t even use one of the songs in the end.”
Lockhart said there were about 1,000 people at the All-State Choir auditions. Students auditioned in groups of 10 at a time, she said.
“You sit in a hallway and wait to go in the audition room. Then they announce your number and ask if you’re ready,” she said. “The judges are behind this tarp, so it’s like a blind audition. They can’t see you.”
Lockhart continued, “You don’t know what music you’ll have to sing, so you have to memorize all of them before you get there. They have maybe eight measures picked out and they’re random, so you have to be prepared before you get there.”
At the All-State Music Conference, she said the choir students are divided into three groups: the Male Chorus, the Female Chorus and the Mixed Choir.
“I’m in the Mixed Choir. Apparently, that is the highest one,” Lockhart said. “We’re singing all the pieces we learned together, and then will also be performing one with all the choirs and directors singing in it. It’s about how much everyone loves to sing.”
Among the pieces being performed, Lockhart said the choir will sing “The Awakening,” “El Vito” and “Regina Coeli” by Mozart.
“I liked learning the new pieces. They were challenging, but it feels amazing when you finally learn them,” she said. “The Mozart piece was especially difficult.”
Lockhart said one of her favorite parts of singing is the audience’s reaction.
“The point of music is getting the audience to feel something, and these pieces can do that, especially in a choir with all the harmonies together,” she said. “It sounds really beautiful.”
Lockhart also performed with the Pennsylvania Girlchoir at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this summer.
“The whole thing was about bringing all these girls together regardless of political affiliation or religious standpoints,” she said. “Music can bring everyone together, and we were showcasing that.”
Lockhart said she believes participating in the All-State Choir will be another experience that helps her prepare for a career in music.
“I want to double major in speech pathology and music,” she said. “These experiences will definitely help me prepare for the future.”
Lockhart continued, “I want to continue in theater and musical theater. I hope to perform in musical theater after college because I love it.”