Students selected for District KMEA Honor Band and Choirs

Sophomore Kate Marten qualified for District Band while 21 students qualified for District Choir


By Avery Gathright

This year, 22 students from the school qualified for the district group, with 1 band student, and 21 choir students joining their respective groups

Gabby Delpleash, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

Twenty-two students from the music department received news that they had qualified for the KMEA Honor Band and Choirs on Monday morning, Nov. 8. Sophomore Kate Marten qualified for the intermediate District Red Band on bassoon while 21 choir students qualified for District Mixed Choir and District Treble Choir.

For the KMEA Honor Band and Choirs, students are selected via a rigorous audition process that starts at the district level. Students who perform at the district level are then eligible to audition for selection to the All-State instrumental ensembles. Thus, the All-State student musicians are the regarded as the best student musicians in the state.

Marten, a second-year District Band qualifier, reflects on her musical improvement from last year’s audition.

“It’s an honor for me to be selected for such a select group, especially considering how much improvement I’ve made from last year,” Marten said. “The District Band is split into three bands: blue band is for the novice qualifiers, red band is for the intermediate qualifiers and gold band is for the top tier qualifiers. I improved from blue band to red band so I’m very proud of myself.”

This year, students auditioning for District Band were required to submit an online recording of their performance per COVID-19 protocols set during the 2020-2021 season.

Alongside seniors Ben Baumgart and Julianne Long, sophomore Kate Marten (center) plays her saxophone with the marching band at the Emporia State Marching Festival on Wednesday, Oct. 6. (By Casey Cunningham)

In August, students were assigned to play an excerpt from a song as the greater portion of their audition performance from which they would be graded on musicality, articulation, tone quality and technique among other criteria. Additionally, the District Band audition submission included the performance of two chromatic scales; sheet music sight-reading was omitted as part of the virtual audition process.

District Choir auditions looked different from the audition process for District Band. Students were assigned a “call-number” and allotted a small amount of time to perform a blind audition for a panel of judges that consisted of sight-reading and, later, performing a small sheet of music, according to junior District Mixed Choir qualifier Brayden Heath.

“[The audition process] was very easy but also very nerve racking,” Heath said. “My classmates along with [choir teacher Jessie] Reimer gave me the motivation to tryout for District Choir.”

Likewise, seniors Ella Tow and Sydney Wootton, District Treble Choir qualifiers, credit Reimer for their attempt at auditioning. Tow, who auditioned for District Choir last year at Reimer’s recommendation wanted to seize her “senior year by going for it and putting my name on the audition list because I know that Reimer would’ve given me a “hard time” if I didn’t tryout.” Wootton took the initiative to audition for District Choir with a different hope in mind.

“I wanted to letter in choir this year because I’ve never lettered so I wanted to do as much as I could to try and letter in choir,” Wootton said. “While I have competed in the District and All-State Choir solo and ensemble contest, this year, as a senior, was my first year auditioning and qualifying for choir at the district level.”

Pretending to hold a trombone, junior Carter Harvey leads the cast in singing “76 Trombones.” (By Casey Cunningham)

Junior Carter Harvey, a District Mixed Choir qualifier, reacted with surprise upon finding out that he made District Choir having been unable to audition his freshman year and not qualifying his sophomore year.

“I didn’t realize how much of a big deal it was to make District Choir,” Harvey said. “I thought the rest of the guys that auditioned from Mill Valley would make it along with me but only three other guys from here made it. Making District Choir was something that I really wanted and something Ms. Reimer really wanted me to do because she wanted a full-list of kids from choir to try this out.”

Harvey also expresses pride in being one of the few males from Mill Valley’s choir to qualify for District Choir, noting how this year’s group of qualifying members sets a record for the choir department.

“Our choir has one of the biggest district-qualifying groups in school history,” Harvey said. “A total of 38 singers auditioned from the Mill Valley choir whereas the district max for qualifiers from a single school is 40 singers. Twenty-one kids from our choir qualified including only three guys, one of them being me.”

Despite the nerves and frustration regarding getting her audition perfect, Marten holds gratitude toward band teacher Debra Steiner and her parents for helping her “persevere through the difficult time of recording my audition. There was lots of crying. Knowing that all of those hard feelings went toward something great coming out of it made the moment of finding out I qualified [for District Band] all the more rich.”

The KMEA District Honor Band and Choirs will have their premiering performance on Saturday, Dec. 4 at the Century II Convention Hall in Wichita at 3:00 p.m. and 11:30 a.m. respectively.

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