Choral students prepare for ISSMA

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By: Min Qiao <mqiao@hilite.org>

Bellowing out the lyrics to “At the River” in her Applied Music Class, Lauren Carpenter, member of the Accents, rehearses her solo for the ISSMA vocal solo and ensemble contest, which will occur on Feb. 2 at Westfield High School. Like the other 50-plus students in the Applied Music class, Carpenter’s participation in the vocal contest is mandatory for the class.

“It is just supposed to be a good experience because we will all perform a solo and we’ll be judged on it,” Carpenter said. “I guess it’s to get us prepared to be able to perform in front of an audience.”

Choir director Lamonte Kuskye said that since the objective of the class is to study solo singing, competing at the ISSMA contest was a great opportunity for the students to apply what the learned in class. While the students learn how to sing in a large choir in class, they rarely sing in a solo environment at school. This contest is one of the only times many of the students in that class get to perform a solo outside of class.

“(The vocal contest) is totally optional for everyone in the choirs, except for Applied Music,” Kuskye said. “However, since some of the students in that class are in choir as well, there are actually several choir students singing (at the contest).”

In addition to the 56 students in his two Applied Music classes, Kuskye has another 30 students from the various choirs who have signed up to compete at this contest as well. Of the 86 total students signed up for this event, all of them will be performing vocal solos, so there are no ensembles singing at the contest this year, Kuskye said.

Carpenter also said that the students often practice with the directors who help them and also act as the accompanist. Since the contest is a required event, she said that the students get class time to work with the directors on their individual solos. For even more practice, the students actually perform their solos in front of the entire class.

The contest is a statewide opportunity for solos and ensembles of all levels, according to Kuskye. The contest centers are crowded with participants.

“All the choir directors and I have to be (at Westfield High School) the entire day to play the piano accompaniment for all the students,” Kuskye said. “Some of the students have voice teachers, and their teachers are their accompanist, but still, it’s going to be a long day.”

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