State-bound Singers

Lyra Thompson, Staff Writer

This past weekend, on Saturday, April 15th, BSHS choirs and soloists went to De Soto High School to sing for the KSHSAA Solo and Small Group Music Festival. Here, both vocalists and instrumentalists perform in front of a judge and get a rating from 1 (Outstanding) to 5 (Ineffective). Only those who receive 1s move on to State.

This year, three ensembles (Men’s, Women’s, and A Cappella) and 15 soloists performed from BSHS. Only five people total got a 1 rating, myself included. Besides myself, these students are Kermitt Jacks, Mackenzie Tomlinson, Addison Lee, and Alexander Chairez.

Junior Mackenzie Tomlinson shared her story. She has been in choir since eighth grade, but was a little hesitant to join at first. “I was initially scared to join because ‘choir kids’ and ‘orchestra kids’ didn’t really get along. They were also really intimidating because the choir that I tried out for was the Honor Choir.”

Tomlinson loves music because of the peace it brings her and how calm she feels when singing. She also shares that she met her best friend through music.

For Tomlinson, the most challenging part of preparing for Regionals was working on her facial expressions. “You’re not supposed to look at the judge when signing so you have to find a spot in the room to sing to, which can feel weird sometimes.” At regionals, she enjoyed hearing the other ensembles sing.

Tomlinson says that she’ll feel more prepared at State and less nervous after having done it once already. She would like to thank Mrs. Greenlee for helping her to prepare.

Senior Alexander Chairez has been in choir since fourth grade, but has loved music and singing from an early age. “I just find music so fascinating and beautiful,” says Chairez, “Like any art form, it can stir any emotion in someone and leave them breathless.”

At Regionals, Chairez loved the satisfaction of finally performing something that took months of work. Chairez shares that the most challenging part of performing was working on the lyrics. “I have a song in Italian and I always get the words fumbled up.” He says that is something he’ll need to perfect before State.

Chairez has been to State once before, when Men’s Ensemble went last year. Chairez is looking forward to staying in a hotel. “I love hotel breakfast and I also enjoy a nice pool,” he says.

When asked if there is anyone he would like to thank, Chairez says, “I would like to thank my mother who inspired my love of music and my closest friends who always stayed by my side.”

My background with singing is similar to Chairez’s. I have also been in choir since fourth grade. Both my mom and sister were or had been in choir, so I gained a love of music from them.

This year was kind of my first time performing at Regionals, so I loved the whole experience. I did contests in my freshman year, but it was virtual that year so I had to record myself and send in a video. I got a 2 that time. Last year, I got sick the week of contests and didn’t feel well enough to go. I won’t be in choir next year, so this was my last chance. I was really wanting to get a 1 this time for my own sense of accomplishment.

With my songs, the biggest aspect that needed work was my stage presence. I didn’t look very engaged with my facial expressions and I was moving my hands, which would be distracting. I worked on that area a lot and it paid off – I got the highest score possible on my stage presence.

At State, I’m looking forward to everything – staying in a hotel, hearing the other singers, and singing for tougher judges. I think it’ll be a challenge, but hopefully it will be a fun challenge. The things I’ll do differently at State are just based on a few specific comments the judge made at Regionals.

I really appreciate my family for being so supportive and helpful with my singing. I’m grateful to Mrs. Greenlee for working with me on all the little details in my songs. I’d also say that my middle school choir teacher, Ms. McGuire, was extremely helpful when it comes to my singing voice.

I also interviewed Mrs. Greenlee to get her perspective on how Regionals went this year. Greenlee has been teaching choir across many different schools for 14 years. She has taken soloists and/or groups to contests every year, and many have gone on to State.

Greenlee loves working on contest pieces with students. “My favorite time of year is second semester!” says Greenlee, “Working with students one on one is the best part of my job. I love helping students grow individually and understanding details and techniques that improve their singing and repertoire. Bringing in clinicians from local colleges and universities is something I also really enjoy. Students are exposed to so many different styles of teaching and are able to truly be their best in the rehearsal setting. Preparing for festivals is one of the most exciting times in choir and as a director!”

Greenlee is very proud of how all the ensembles and soloists did this year. She shares how she has seen incredible growth in the past few months among the ensembles. “That being said, our success depends on the dedication and work ethic of every single member of the group just like a team. I’m very excited to say that our ensembles have made great improvement in this aspect and I look forward to continued growth and great years to come!” she says.

As for the soloists, Greenlee says, “it takes a lot of grit and bravery to sing by yourself and prepare two contrasting songs. It takes so much work and dedication to do well and I am truly proud of their efforts!”

Mrs. Greenlee would like to give a big shout out and thank you to our accompanist, Ms. Peden. “She prepared 42 songs for our events at [the] Regional Solo and Small Ensemble festival and worked one on one with many students to help them reach their goals and develop their musicianship.”

She is excited for the soloists to bring all they’ve got at State.

State contests will be held at Andover Central High School in Andover, Kansas on April 29th. Good luck to everyone!