Hitting the high notes
Among the middle and high school choir students in Crook County, one lucky seventh-grader has been accepted to represent the Crook County School District at the Oregon All-State Honor Choir.
Avery Chamness will learn five to six high-school level pieces of music and will join the best middle school singers in Oregon to perform with the Honor Choir in Eugene in January.
Chamness has a passion for singing, and she is excited to have the opportunity to represent her school at the All-State Honor Choir.
"It means that all of the hard work that I have put in since I was really little (of singing) — almost 24-7, has actually paid off to do something that I have loved for a while," Chamness said.
In spite of being sick at auditions, she was excited to succeed in making the choir.
"It was kind of hard to hit the really high notes," she said, "but after practicing and singing a lot, it kind of went away."
Sue Green, Choir Director for Crook County Middle School and Crook County High School, said that the all-state choir students are expected to work independently to get ready for the event in January. They receive materials, and they work on them on their own. They are checked occasionally by the choir director.
"She is being treated like a young adult in training, basically," Green pointed out.
Green is serving her second year in the position. She jokes about this being her 33rd year in her teaching career.
"I am their geriatric choir director," she said, "but I still know how to energize them."
The Oregon Music Education Association holds its state conference every other year, always in the even years. Every other odd year, the Northwest Conference holds its state conference.
"Even within Northwest, we still have an all-state choir," Green said. "So there is all-state choir every single year, and a Northwest opportunity every other year."
Green said that at the elementary level, choir instructors can nominate students for the elementary all-state choir. At the middle school level, they are required to sing two, five-note scales. She emphasized that the judges are listening to more than whether the contestants can sing a tune.
"They are listening to the tone quality, whether there's breathiness, whether it's a clean, pure tone. They are listening to vowel color, and they are listening to breath management," she said. "It's kind of sneaky. It seems simple at the middle school level, but there is a lot more behind the scenes that you want to be aware of when you are auditioning."
At the high school level, it is more expensive and involved for auditions. Green is hoping that next year she will have students compete at the high school level. This year, auditions were open to seventh and eighth grade, as well as high school.
Avery's mother, Tanya Chamness, said that she was proud of Avery and glad that she went ahead and tried out, even though Avery was extremely nervous.
"It's better to try—even if you don't make it," Tanya said. "Then you can learn from that process and then try again if you really want to do it again."
Tanya added that Avery has been thinking about the opportunity since last year, and looking forward to being able to try out.
"When you see your child just get really excited about something, it just makes you—as a mom—really happy about it," Tanya said.
All-State Honor Choir is a three-day event. It culminates with a concert, which is open to the public. It is sponsored by the Oregon Music Education Association.
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