48 musicians earns places at upcoming All State Festival

Cedar Falls placed 48 musicians in the All-State Music Festival after auditioning in Hampton on Saturday, Oct. 22. The All-State Festival is in Ames, Iowa from Nov. 17-19. 

As part of the choir, Henry Giddens was accepted into the All State Festival. “It takes everybody about the same amount of time to prepare the music, typically about two months, but we get the music sometime in July,” he said. “Performing in front of judges is, of course, nerve wracking, but if you know you are prepared and have spent time learning the music, you should feel comfortable.” 

This is his second year earning All State. “I did the All-State process for the first time last year also for choir and made it then as well.” Giddens said. “I had no expectations going in because I was fortunate enough to have already done it once. I was just happy to do the process again.” 

For him, the experience was rewarding. “I had tons of fun with my quartet as expected, and my voice got better as I was hoping it would. This honor is one I gratefully accept and treasure, but I know it means more that I stuck with the process when it can get kind of difficult.”

 Drew Ludeman was also one of many finalists in the competition. “I remember we started rehearsing with Mr.Kranz about the beginning of the school year, but we got the music prior to school starting, so I know it’s different for everyone, but I personally started looking at the music as soon as we got it because they send it out and they put it on the website so that you have recordings of all the music, and they send out the sheet music too, like you can look at what songs you are singing. Then you get the physical music at the office. It’s just that some people start earlier than others. It just depends on when you go get the stuff.” 

For Ludeman, the preparation was stressful. “Before you do it, it’s one of the most terrifying things. It really is because every judge is different and the vibe is going to be different every single time when you go in there. You’re going in with different people every single time. My quartet last year was all seniors, and they all graduated, so I can never be in a quartet with them again, so now I have all new people, but once you go in there, I remember my seniors talking about this last year. There’s just like a clarity that happens and you’re not as scared anymore, especially after you sing a little bit. You realize you know your stuff and it’s all gonna be OK, but it’s really scary before you actually go in the room.”

For Drew, “This is my third year trying out for All-State. I tried out as a freshman when we had to send in digital recordings as opposed to going because of COVID. I made it in then, and this last year they got back into in-person, so I was able to get put into a quartet and try out with them, and now things are mostly back to normal that we’re doing that again.”

She said in preparing, she “didn’t know what to expect because even though I have done this last year, last year was the 75th anniversary, so everything was different. It was not a good year to be having your first year of All-State. There was different music. A lot of people were saying that the music was the hardest it’s been in a long time. As far as the audition process goes, Mr.Kranz overprepares us, so we always know what’s going to happen; of course, you don’t really know until you go, but I’ve gone before.”

As the audition arrived, though, Ludeman found she was ready. “I was thinking things might be different just because again I was going with different people, and there was a lot harder music. We’re a very different group than we were last year going into it, but it clicked in the very same way. It was about what I expected it to be.”

Like others, the experience is a personal high point. “It means a lot to me personally. I know sometimes we get results and we are confused because there are amazing singers that don’t make it, and there are not so great singers that do make it sometimes. It’s all up to like those seven minutes that you are in that room. It doesn’t define you as a performer, but for me personally, ever since I tried out freshman year, I wanted to make it all four years because I just had it in my head that it would be important to me. I love getting the music and learning the music, but being a part of an ensemble that big and that selective is a really great experience.” 

The band department placed 21 students at All-State. Euphonium player Alanna Reynolds said, “For the audition, you have to play part of a solo of your choice, two etudes, a major scale of your choice, two random major scales and the chromatic scale. All of the scales have to be memorized, and because the major scales are random, you have to learn all 12. Because I auditioned last year, I already had all of the scales memorized, but I kept practicing them so I could maintain them. I started learning my solo in June of this year, and the etudes in late July when they were revealed.”

She said the audition was as expected. “For the audition, there is one judge. They give you the instructions and the tempo for the scales, then let you know when you can leave. Aside from that, they don’t really talk to you outside of a greeting when you walk in. If you are polite to them, they are polite to you. Because they aren’t giving feedback, I don’t consider the process very stressful. You just go in, do your best, then wait for results.”

She has made All State before, so Reynolds said she was ready. “I expected to go in for my audition and play well enough to make it in based off of last year, but not perfect due to the nerves. I was expecting a couple of the other euphoniums auditioning to not show up, again, based on last year, but I figured there would still be enough people for recalls if the choice wasn’t clear to the judge.

“My experience matched my expectations almost perfectly. I didn’t play my absolute best, but I still played pretty well in the initial audition. Four euphoniums got brought back for recalls, and again, I played pretty well. I was surprised to see that everybody who signed up to audition came, but euphoniums are a pretty small group, so I wasn’t too concerned. I am super excited to be able to play with so many other incredible players.”

Clarinet player Torin Brown was one of the other finalists in the band competition. “I started preparing probably mid July, so about three and a half to four months,” he said. “It’s a little nerve wracking at first, but once you kinda get over the initial nerves, you just gotta find it in yourself to enjoy it, and it makes the overall experience easier.” 

Brown had been to All State before, so he was ready this year too. “I’ve tried out for All-State in two previous years, and I made it, so this is going to be my third year, so, obviously I was hoping to get in, but I guess you just kinda go into it hoping to do your best. If you did your best, you will improve in the long run, and that’s all that matters. I would say every year that I’ve auditioned I’ve improved as a player overall. I guess it just means getting recognition for all the hard work you put in, and it’s something to be proud of.”

In the orchestra department, 11 students were placed in the All-State competition. Violin player Mihika Iyer said, “It took about two to two and a half months. It was scary at first, but once I entered the room I felt like I could do it because I had seen the judge and was more comfortable.” 

Like the others, Iyer, had been in All State in the past. “I did All-State last year too, and I did other violin competitions,” she said. “I just wanted to do better than I did last year, and I did, and it made me a better player overall. I think for me it means that I did my best, and I proved that I am a good violinist, and I could live up to those expectations.”

Another violin finalist was Chandler Taylor. “The excerpts started getting released in August, and so I’ve been working about an hour a day since last August. It was a little scary. I kinda went into it with the mentality that no judge has hatred for you, so it wasn’t too bad.” 

Taylor made All State last year too, “so I was kinda expecting and hoping to be able to make it again, and I was happy that I did. It means a lot. I’ve had a lot of colleges reach out to me since last year, so it means a lot that I’m able to pursue those more.”

As one of the six violin finalists from Cedar Falls, Emma Halvorsen was one of the people that made it this year at All-State. “I started in July when the excerpts came out and then I ended in October when we auditioned. It was scary, but I had experience from last year that prepared me and knew what was coming. I got in my ninth grade year, but it was COVID, so it was online recorded, but then last year was our first year with in-person auditions.” 

Like others, Halvorsen prepared with good things in mind. “I expected to go in and do my best,” she said. “It’s really rewarding to see other members of orchestra do well as well. It really is a personal goal to make this. It’s fun to see my friends do well and go with them to All-State.”

With the All-State Festival coming up on Nov. 17-19, band director Gerald Ramsey said last year was unique due to the 75th anniversary of All State, but this year had some new twists too, and for anyone to get in is a badge of distinction. “Well a lot of people try for the spots and a much smaller number actually get the spots. It’s a pretty small percentage of all the music students in Iowa that reach that level of distinction. In Cedar Falls, we typically have a fairly large number selected every year and so I think, for people who are casually familiar with it here each year, may get the idea that a lot of kids get in everywhere, but that’s not the case. There are a few schools that do pretty well, but it’s a rare school that we get a lot of kids in for band, choir and orchestra. I know last year that there was no other school that had as many kids selected than Cedar Falls. I haven’t seen the information for this year yet so I can’t tell you about this year. Most schools feel like that when they get at least one kid in they celebrate. In a very real sense, it is an individual event; the student makes it and they don’t.” 

In honor of Cedar Falls placing 48 student musicians, here are the Cedar Falls High School students that made it in this year:



Diya Pradeep, Violin

Mihika Iyer, Violin

Summer Lim, Violin

Chandler Taylor, Violin

Emma Halvorsen, Violin

Julia Magee, Violin

Mason Munnik, Viola

Alex Christ, Cello

Abby Sliwinski, Cello

Elliot Purdum, Cello

Asa Posey, String Bass



Natalie Thomas, Flute

Alissa Charlton, Flute

Lucas Halvorsen, Oboe

Jonathan Squires, Bassoon

Juliana Heinen, Clarinet

Cedric Liu, Clarinet

Torin Brown, Clarinet

Kaylee McSweeney, Clarinet

Andrew Gerdes, Bass Clarinet

Gabrielle Townsend, Alto Saxophone

Isabelle Cuhat, Tenor Saxophone

Britain Atkins, Baritone Saxophone

Pascal Cuhat, Trumpet

Taylor Johnson, Trumpet

Kristen Engalhardt, Trombone

Alex Stoner, Trombone

Alanna Reynolds, Euphonium

Kate Galyen, Percussion

Eleanor Smith, Alternate Tenor Saxophone

Safvet Parpucu, Alternate Trombone

Sarah Campbell, Alternate Tuba



Cadence Smith, Soprano

Drew Ludeman, Soprano

Abby Forsyth, Soprano

Lucy Dunning, Soprano

Faith Hansel, Soprano

Ava Torres, Soprano

Abby Dvorak, Alto

Taylor Urbanek, Alto

Catie Shockley, Alto

Amelia Bryant, Alto

Varun Gawaldi, Tenor

Colin Hayes, Tenor

John Ferguson, Tenor

Ethan Beneke, Tenor

Griffin Searfoss, Tenor

Wes Kitzman, Bass

Henry Giddens, Bass

Jack Brooks, Bass

Sam Smith, Bass

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