• April 23Wylie's percussion band will be holding a concert Tuesday, April 30 from 7 to 8 p.m.

  • April 23Come to the PAC at 7:00 tonight to hear some smooth tunes from our Jazz Band

The Impact of All-State

Courtesy+of+www.sahbgcc.com
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The Impact of All-State

Courtesy of www.sahbgcc.com

Courtesy of www.sahbgcc.com

Courtesy of www.sahbgcc.com

Courtesy of www.sahbgcc.com

Emy J. Pablico, Staff Writer

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The Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) convention in San Antonio is the destination thousands of students aspire to reach but few manage to. Students across the state of Texas embarked on a long, arduous journey in June to earn a coveted spot in a Texas All-State ensemble. For the second year in a row, I earned a spot in one of the All-State Choirs and once again, I have returned with memorable lessons and experiences to share.

Unlike other All-State ensembles, once you make it to state for choir, your spot is secured. There are four All-State Choirs: the Large School Mixed Choir, the Large School Treble Choir, the Large School Tenor-Bass Choir, and the Small School Mixed Choir. All choirs are difficult to earn a spot in; many students try throughout their entire high school career and fail to make the cut. Of the 15,000 students who audition at the beginning of the school year, only 2.5% succeed in making a choir.

This year, my place was in the Large School Treble Choir under the direction of Dr. Anton Armstrong from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Dr. Armstrong is a world-renowned conductor whose work has brought him to not only the White House but also monarchs of Europe. The repertoire of the 2018-2019 Treble Choir consisted of eight choral pieces: “Sorida” by Rosephanye Powell, a Zimbabwe greeting, “Der 23. Psalm” by Franz Schubert, “Laudi Alla Vergine Maria” by Giuseppe Verdi, “Spirit of Life” by Dr. Christopher Aspaas, “When Thunder Comes” by Mari Esabel Valverde, “Starting Now” by Jocelyn Hagen, “Flight Song” by Kim André Arnesen, and “Ride on, King Jesus” by Moses Hogan.

Of the eight pieces we were to perform, half of them were part of the audition process; the other four pieces were new and had been given to us upon making the Treble Choir. In Dr. Armstrong’s words, the Verdi and Schubert were for himself—he had encountered these pieces in his younger years and hoped to bring them to their full potential. “Flight Song” was a gift to him from Arnesen, and “Ride on, King Jesus” was written by a friend who had died much too early. “Spirit of Life”, “When Thunder Comes”, and “Starting Now” are works from former students of Dr. Armstrong, each holding a message he wanted to relay to the young women of the choir.

“Spirit of Life” uses text that exemplifies a message of hope and strength; in Dr. Armstrong’s letter given to us at our last audition, he shares Dr. Aspaas’s thoughts on his composition: “…the text by J. Raymond Cope spoke to me as words I would want my three daughters to hear and to know. The text shares a message of inner-strength and dedication to a ‘higher purpose, a nobler dream, a more perfect life together nourished in wisdom and love.’” In our rehearsals, Dr. Armstrong placed a strong emphasis on the meaning behind our works and the significance thereof. For this piece in particular, he sought to instill a feeling of empowerment for all of us—he reached into our hearts and inspired a show of vitality and promise. His words showed intent; an intention to enact a firm belief in ourselves, an intention to provoke confidence, and an intention for us to leave San Antonio with a brighter view of the future ahead.

“When Thunder Comes” by Mari Esabel Valverde is, in her words, “a celebration of American civil rights heroes”. Civil rights heroes in this piece include Sylvia Méndez, an opponent of school segregation in California; Helen Zia, a Chinese-American activist and journalist who identified as a lesbian; Harvey Milk, an openly gay California politician; and Freedom Summer’s “soldiers” who worked to enfranchise African-American voters in the 1960s. Few of these activists are noted figures in American history, and the sonnet that Valverde put to music sought to draw attention to “our history’s systemic erasure of the stories of marginalized human beings in the United States”. Valverde’s work stood out from the rest of our repertoire because of her visit to one of our rehearsals; Valverde spoke about what the LGBT community refers to as “coming out”, or in her way of phrase, “letting people in”. She opened herself to us and informed us about herself; what she shared struck a deep chord within all of us, and she moved us to a greater and stronger performance. I can say confidently that near everyone in the Treble Choir felt obligated to deliver the best possible performance for Ms. Valverde. The message within the piece is simple: stand up for yourself, speak out against injustices, and act when you are called upon to do so. Remember our history, for we are nothing if we don’t. It is impossible to progress if we cannot recognize the faults in our past.

“Starting Now” by Jocelyn Hagen was written as a response to the #MeToo movement. This piece was a point of struggle and frustration; of all the pieces performed, we toiled most over perfecting this. One day, after hours of rehearsal, Dr. Armstrong silenced us and shared with us a moment of honesty. He spoke to us about perception and how the first thing a person will observe about us is our gender. Women’s roles throughout history have changed drastically in the past century, but there are preconceived notions about women that still exist in modern day society. He spoke with frustration; as a woman, you have to work to surpass the expectations of other people, and if you’re a woman of color, you have two ideas to defeat. The #MeToo movement has given rise to a plethora of support and female empowerment but also truths that are hard to face. Silence filled the room. “Never let someone take advantage of you,” he said, his voice soft yet impassioned. We went through the piece, and the theme of “Starting Now” sang vibrantly. Change is hard to come by. We wish to amend our lives, but instead, we are met with frustration; however, it’s possible to prevail. In the composer’s note, Hagen states, “The piece begins with a spark and heaps of forward momentum, and in the end, it’s the repetitive drive of the harmonic progression of four chords mixed with the empowering words of the poem that gives the listeners the most powerful message: Stay the path. Don’t give up. Continue with all you’ve got even when you’re tired and weary. Stay positive.” The piece imparts a message of patience, resilience, and optimism: elements of life that are easily forgotten and lost in the face of change. Hagen concludes, “Change takes time, but with determination and patience, I believe that we can all succeed in transforming our lives, and with them, the world.”

The TMEA convention can be an amazing experience if you’re open to it. Last year, I left with a renewed love for music and its power, but this year, I left with a newfound love for myself. I left San Antonio with a better sense of self and restored confidence in my capabilities. Of course, I learned more about technique as a singer and how I can improve as a musician, but my experiences in that rehearsal room impacted my character and my view of the future. Music is a powerful thing, and it can transcend boundaries. Music can unify, discipline, and teach. Music has been an unexpected teacher and an outlet for myself for years, and I will carry the lessons I’ve learned from it for years to come.

 

About the Writer
Emy J. Pablico, Writer

Emy J. Pablico is part of the 2021 graduating class and is new to the Paw Print news staff this year. Emy is a participant in numerous UIL activities...

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