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St. Helens High students Grace Stearns and Hayden Weitzel will compete at the state level at the end of April

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Grace Stearns, oboist, (left), and Hayden Weitzel, vocalist, (right), will compete at the Oregon State Activities Association championships on April 28. Two musicians from St. Helens High School have earned the opportunity to perform at the Oregon State Solo Championships later this month, which will be held at Pacific University on April 28.

Freshman Gracie Stearns and junior Hayden Weitzel earned their spots after after competing at various musical competitions during the spring season.

For choral and musical solo performances, students qualify at several events sanctioned by various musical entities during the season, before garnering a spot at the state-level Oregon School Activities Association Championships, choir director Eric Stearns explained.

Gracie Stearns was recently selected as the Oregon Music Educators Association District 3 champion in the oboe category. Later this month she will perform two movements of a George Handel oboe sonata at the state solo championships.

Junior Hayden Weitzel, a vocalist, was selected as a first alternate soprano singer in the Oregon Music Educators Association championships and will also perform at the state championships. She will perform music by Henry Purcell and Giovanni Paisiello.

Eric Stearns said it's an honor for two of his students to be selected to compete at the state level, one of whom is his daughter.

"It's a huge honor for our school to be able to have them go, and not the least of which is my daughter, of course, who is the oboe champion, and I'm really proud of her," Stearns said. "But as a whole, St. Helens High School has a rich tradition of music. To see these kids represent us at the highest level of music just shows what we're doing here is having an effect on students' lives and encouraging them to perform at a higher level."

Both students said they are nervous about the competition but added that they are also excited to have the chance to compete at the state level, which neither of them has done before.

"I'm just excited to be able to because it's a big deal to me, even if I don't win," Weitzel said. "I'm feeling a bit nervous, but I'm just hopeful that I'll do well."

Performing at the state level will also allow the students to learn from other musicians from around the state, Gracie Stearns explained. She said she is looking forward to hearing other soloists and learning from their performances as a spectator. She added that receiving critiques on her performances helps her grow as a performer.

"I'm nervous because I'm going up against some of the best oboists in the state, which is super awesome and scary. But I'm excited to listen to them and learn from them and get judged," Gracie Stearns said.

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