This year, ten Camas High School students can proudly say they have been selected to perform in an All-State or All-Northwest choir, band, or orchestra. Along with these ten students, Senior Zack Shafer became one of just three students from Camas to have ever qualified for an All-National choir ensemble.
Auditioning for these groups is no easy feat. Senior Tessa Bass says a lot goes into the audition process. There are four tracks to learn: a chromatic scale, a composition, and a tone-based track. “It’s one of the harder ones because anyone can play it, but it’s how you play it that matters.” The last track combines everything together.
For choir students, the audition process is similar. Choir teacher Mr. Ethan Chessin explains that “to get into All-State, [students] have to sing two major scales and a chromatic scale, America the Beautiful, and then their part in a four-part chorale.” Chessin helps students record before sending out the recordings to judges.
He further states that “only a few more students [audition] than get in. This is the kind of thing where you’re not going to do it if you’re not already fairly qualified because it’s a lot of work.”
Once students are selected, they get to go to a “convention,” or “workshop,” where the state, northwest, or nationwide qualifiers learn songs and perform together.
Senior Julia Watson describes the All-Northwest choir meeting as “a three-day intensive in Portland where [selected students] stay overnight and… learn around 9 pieces of music. [The students then] have four different performances for it.”
Although a fair amount of Camas students qualify each year, making it through the prestigious audition process. Junior James Kling describes that “to a lot of people it’s a big deal, and especially as you climb [up through the different levels], it becomes bigger and bigger of a deal. I think there’s something to look forward to.”
Sizes may vary by state, but across Washington, 300 students qualify each year. However, as the level increases, fewer students qualify.
Shafer explains only “240 people from around the country” get picked for All-National. Along with being a very small number, it is required that students be in their high school choir and must have qualified for All-State the year before.
Unlike All-State and All-Northwest, All-Nationals already happened in later November. Shafer arrived at Disney World, performed his concert two days later, and flew home the next day. In order to prepare for such a quick concert, he says, “the rehearsals were 7 hours a day.” Still, he claims the long rehearsals were “so rewarding, because… you’re just surrounded by people who you know are just as passionate as you if not more passionate, and have the same skills as you if not more. It’s a lot of fun.”
Undeniably, All-Nationals is one of the best experiences a high school music student can have. However, it is important not to undermine how valuable All-State and All-Northwest as well.
The experience is also valuable for teachers. As Chessin states, “I, as a teacher, will be really excited to go and learn from the clinician at All-State and watch them run the rehearsals. It’s just as valuable an experience for me as a teacher as it is for… [the] students.”
All-State and All-Northwest ensembles will meet from February 15-17th.