Whether you are a part of the music department or not, it can be clear who the few students are that surpass the normal choir, band, or orchestra requirements. Each year a select number of music students move from the all-district choir, band, or orchestra ensemble to audition for the all-state ensemble. Then there are the even smaller few who audition for two all-district and all-state ensembles.
Senior band and choir student, Tevin Johnson, said, “It’s very hard to make all state again. Even if you’ve made it the year previous, it is very hard to make it the next year. Especially with choir, because it’s a different song you have to sing, different judges, it’s a different type of music in a tone that they’re looking for. So, they might not be looking for what you prepared, which is okay. But it’s a very hard process to make two different all-state band or choir or orchestra.”
Johnson is in the Lee’s Summit West wind ensemble, a drum major, in concert choir and Una Voce. Johnson said he is one of those students who understands that music is his passion.
“I found that out at a young age, back in elementary, and so I just started to pursue it … I’ve just been sticking with it and realized that that’s where I belong and that’s what I love to do,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s fellow choir member, senior Shannon Bell, said that seeing the older kids perform for the schools when she was younger made her realize she wanted to work towards that. Now, being a part of the school’s chamber orchestra, concert choir, and Una Voce has made that come full circle.
Bell said that while sometimes the process of all-district and all-state is stressful, she knows that she really enjoys these classes and the hard work that she puts into them. “I think overall it’s been positive because it’s like a fun part of my day. It’s made my experience here pretty good and the music programs here are really good, which is really nice,” Bell said.
District choir director Amy Krinke said Lee’s Summit, as a school district for choir, is extremely competitive. “Of the 32 members of the all-state choir from the Kansas City Metro Area, 15 of those students are Lee’s Summit School District students. That’s very unusual. Most schools have zero or maybe one all stater,” Krinke said.
Johnson also agreed, and said that being a student at West has prepared him well for any scenarios they may face while pursuing a future in music.
Before Johnson and Bell got their results for all-state, they had to put in hard work to get through the precursor, all-districts. Once they made all-district, they were chosen to move on to audition for all-state.
“Once you make district choir, those scores carry over into the all-state process and then you sing an additional piece which is a choral piece of music. So you’re singing your voice part with the other voice parts,” Krinke said.
The process is very extensive, according to Johnson and Bell, with multiple auditions and practice starting in the summer and for Johnson he said it’s been tough and a lot of hard work just practicing. He said that choir comes more natural to him, and having already done his choir solo made it easier.
However, while he had already performed his all-district solo, he was given an all new solo for all-state. Johnson said that was when he really zoned in to try and sing it differently to stand out. “I notice my strengths and weaknesses, I work on my weaknesses, but really like to show off my strengths so anywhere I can, I try to use my strengths and show that I’m different from others,” Johnson said.
“In band, for all-district and all-state, it’s the same packet, you get a packet for material to learn and at the audition, at random, they choose different parts of the packet and same with all-state. In all- state you have a sight reading for instrumental as well. So it’s just a lot of just zoning in and focusing and just dedicated time to stuff,” Johnson said.
Bell also had been working hard to get where she is, working since the summer and trying to balance working hard but not burning out too soon. “For choir, for all-districts, I had to prepare solos and then for all-state, they gave us a song and we had to learn it and then sing it along with the track and we had to learn it three weeks before the audition. All of a sudden, a lot of work was going into that compressed into three weeks. So it’s definitely taken some commitment, time and commitment,” Bell said.
When you zoom out of Lee’s Summit West and focus on what it means to be an all-stater as a whole, there is lots of competition according to Krinke.
There are 11 districts across Missouri for choir and each district is allocated a certain number of students to be selected. “For example, in the KC Metro District—which is where our school is—there are about 500 kids who audition for choir. They make the district choir first, and there’s about 140 or so they make the district choir, and if they make the district choir, they’re then eligible to try out for the all-state choir. And so of those 140, if they’re a junior or a senior they try out for the all-state choir they prepare another piece of music, and then the top 32 of those are then selected for the all-state choir,” Krinke said.
Krinke said that when you think about it from the initial 500, it cuts to the eight highest scoring people in each of the four voice parts that make up the all-state choir. For these students it’s something that they’ve dedicated lots of time to and have been working for for a long time.
“I made all-district [orchestra] my eighth grade year for the middle school district and I was like, ‘Okay, this is pretty cool’ and I learned about what I could do in high school, and I think then I was like, ‘I really want to work towards that.’ Then once I started including choir, I got more serious about it in high school and then I realized that I really wanted to work towards that and I think seeing people above me that were like my role models get to make things like that was like kind of made me really want to do it more,” Bell said.
What brings these students together is their passion for music and how hard they’ve worked for these moments. “It’s definitely made me feel a part of something. I feel like I’ve done some sports and some clubs and it just didn’t really fit for me, it wasn’t really for me. Choir and band just really make me feel at home and feel like I’m a part of a family at West and it’s always nice to have people to go back to and talk to and relate to,” Johnson said.
“I think it looks cool obviously on resumes but it’s also like the idea of getting to go perform with people that are at your level that are just as passionate about it as you are from around the state. We had our first all-state choir rehearsal on Tuesday nights and just getting to be with people. Even though it’s just people from our district that made it, getting to be with people that are really good and that passionate about it really inspired me to do really well,” Bell said.