This upcoming Saturday, October 21st, 56 Prairie music students will be auditioning to be a part of the band or choir for the Iowa All-State Music Festival. 28 choir students and 28 band members have prepared for these important auditions and depart early this Saturday morning to Independence, Iowa, where the auditions are held.
For the 28 choir students, there are 7 musicians auditioning per part. That means 7 students on soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. In that number it makes it possible to audition in quartets. Of the 28 band students auditioning there are 2 freshman and the remaining students are from the high school.
In the world of music, All-State is big deal. Why is is so important to high school musicians? Mr. Sands, choir director at Prairie High School comments, “All-State is an opportunity for us to give our most advanced students the opportunity to really be challenged.” For those students for which music is life, All-State is a chance to shine as well as improve one’s talents.
Musical All-State is also significant because of it’s uniqueness compared to All-State for other activities. One of the band directors, Mr. Aune states, “Unlike in All-State football or volleyball, kids will sometimes attain this all-state level in their sport or activity, but they never get together. The All-State football team never plays a game, the All-State volleyball team never plays a game. [Band] kids get together with those selected on every instrument across the state and actually work together to perform with the best musicians in the state. So I think it’s a really unique way of doing something at the All-State level.”
Other than challenging oneself, why do these music students decide to audition for All-State? According to Mr. Jimmerson, a Prairie high school band director, being part of the All-State band or choir can help with college scholarships or other opportunities. “It opens up opportunities you might not have had otherwise.”
Dalen Maresh, a senior who is auditioning for the All-State band on trombone, comments, “I’m auditioning because I feel as though it’s another opportunity to further my studies and advance myself in my individual playing. Which in turn contributes to making the ensembles I perform in better as a whole.”
With auditions being such a high-stakes deal, students put in tons of practice. Mr. Sands says, “We started with a 4 day camp in August. [Students] were here for 2-3 hours each day, for those four days and then they practice on their own until school starts.” Once school began the students got assigned to their quartets and practiced in groups, though many probably practiced on their own outside of school.
For estimating the hours per week, Sands said, “I would say, at a bare minimum, they’re practicing 3 hours a week, but that’s a bare minimum. So it’s probably closer to 5, depending on the group. Plus we sing all the music in choir, so they get that too. It’s very very time consuming.”
On the band side of the spectrum, students spend just as much time practicing. Mr. Aune mentioned, “We have some kids that have literally spent 45 minutes to an hour a day since summer.” Of course the amount of practice varies, some students may have less time to practice some may spend even more time on the music. Many students get practice and advice outside of school as well. Mr. Jimmerson added, “95% of those kids are taking private lessons with another instructor so they’re getting additional help. They go to workshops or mock auditions sometimes. So it’s whatever they can do to feel the most prepared they can be.”
However, even with all the hard work put in and the great amount of students going to audition, the results are unpredictable. According to both music departments the number of students selected each year varies greatly. Sands voiced that, “It depends, from year to year, we’ve had as few as 3 or 4 and our best year was probably 18.” Mr. Aune also expressed the huge variability when it comes to All-State. “It varies literally every year, from as few as 2 or as many as 10. Last year we were fortunate to have 10, but on a typical, average year I would say 4-5.”
Overall, auditions for All-State are intimidating and certainly a challenge, but definitely worth it for those in the musical community. So with with the challenge coming up and the all the hard work put into it, let’s all give a hearty good luck to the 56 music students auditioning for All-State this Saturday!