Musicians prepare for Iowa All-State

Rhydian Talbot/Staff Writer

Auditions for the Iowa All-State Music Festival are approaching, and students from CF are busy preparing.

The festival is a compilation of Iowa’s top high school choral and instrumental musicians, carefully selected through a rigorous preparation and audition process.

Optional clinics, workshops and camps are held throughout the summer and in the weeks preceding the audition to help musicians effectively learn and prepare their music for the audition.
This year’s auditions will be held on Oct. 22, giving students limited time to put the final touches on their music.

The All-State Choir accepts 600 singers from across the state.

For the selection process, singers perform an a cappella audition with members of their own school choir in duets, trios or quartets, and they sing an excerpt of music from each of the seven choral pieces to be performed at the music festival.

Judges score student auditions based on criteria like rhythm, intonation and musicality.

Singers may be selected for a recall after their initial audition if their judge requires a second listen in order to make a final placement decision.

At recalls, singers must perform solo for a panel of three judges who then confer to make a final placement.

The taxing audition process requires all musicians to practice both in and out of school in order to be fully prepared. For her third and final year of All-State preparation, senior Brooke Craig has stepped up her practice intensity to help increase her chances on Oct. 22.

“I’ve listened to my CD more, I’ve been meeting with my group for longer than a half hour and we’re meeting at each other’s houses instead of just school. We’ve been asking Mr. Kranz for more of his time,” Craig said.

Choir teacher Eliott Kranz spends hours before, during and after the school day helping his students prepare for the audition.

To meet quotas, preliminary auditions are held in the beginning of the school year to narrow down the students who will audition for the festival in October.

From there, sectional practices are held roughly three times a week for the first few weeks of school to help singers learn their music, and a CD of the music is sent home so that they may practice individually.

Once singers have a grasp on the pieces, they are split into trios and quartets that meet with Kranz at least once a week and are strongly encouraged to practice amongst themselves throughout the week as well.

Auditioning in a trio or quartet allows students to learn how to blend their voice with others, but it can add a new level of stress to the preparation.

“My least favorite part of the process is having to be in groups. So much of getting into All-State depends upon your group, and if the whole group isn’t committed, it can be a frustrating process for all involved,” Kranz said.

The selection for the All-State Orchestra and Band requires instrumentalists to prepare a one minute solo of their choosing and to play three of 12 major scales, chosen at random.

Orchestra hopefuls play excerpts from the music that will be performed at the November festival, and band auditionees play excerpts from two different etudes.

Recall auditions are held only for the top instrumentalists that scored the highest on their first round criteria sheet.

If selected, band members must learn five new full-length pieces for the All-State performance, and orchestra students learn the expanded versions of their audition excerpts.

In preparation for auditions, junior Hannah Niemann has devoted at least an hour of practice almost every day since the release of the selected etude’s titles on July 24.

She takes lessons with a private clarinet instructor, and she attended a statewide workshop at UNI, where professors from the music department offered suggestions and guidance about the etudes and general technique.

As a third-year auditionee, Niemann’s experience allowed her to identify playing for a judge as the most intimidating aspect of the process.

“I don’t like playing in front of judges because I get nervous, which makes everything go out the door, like my embouchure and breathing technique,” Niemann said.

To help diminish this performance anxiety, she makes a point to play for other people, treating it like an actual audition in order to help manage the nerves that come at the real event.

Nerves and anxiety over the audition process can affect musicians of every experience level.

Junior Ann Fienup has been selected as a harpist for the All-State Orchestra twice and is hoping to make this year her third.

Though she has a solid grasp on the preparation and audition process, she can’t entirely shake the nerves brought about by the event.

“Even though I’ve made it before, it’s still really frantic because you have that experience under your belt so you want to go back and do it again,” Fienup said.Last year, the high school’s band had a personal record number of 17 students and two alternates selected for the All-State festival.

Band directors Gerald Ramsey and Kyle Engelhardt continue to help their students prepare by offering individual lessons to address their specific questions.

Despite the helpful individualized assistance, no number of students who will make the final selection is ever a guarantee.

“I never make any prediction about how many we’ll get. We have a lot of people that I think will be well prepared by the day of auditions, but there are always a lot of variables, so I hesitate to make a guess,” Ramsey said.

The 2011 All-State music festival concert will be Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Ames Hilton Colloseum.

Class of 2014

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