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High school choir members sing their way to top honors

Chosen to perform at the 2013 ACDA Honor Choir are, front from left, Kendra Gilsdorf, McKenzie Mann and Sarah Larson, back from left, Mason Wentz, Max Boyd and Dillon Spurlin. Brian Basham/Tribune

The halls of the Detroit Lakes High School Choir Department are usually filled with music, but this week is a particularly busy time for vocal music director Kathryn Larson’s students.

Not only are they preparing for a rescheduled choir concert on Thursday, March 7, but for the annual DLHS Music Scholarship Concert on Monday, March 11.

In addition, five of Larson’s students will be performing at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) 2013 National Conference in Dallas, Texas, which runs from March 13-16.

DLHS senior Max Boyd, junior McKenzie Mann, sophomore Kendra Gilsdorf and ninth graders Sarah Larson, Dillon Spurlin and Mason Wentz all auditioned for, and were selected to the 2013 ACDA Honor Choirs, which will perform during the convention.  “They are all preparing music to go work with expert conductors who are well known in the world of choral music,” said Larson.

The conductors of the 2013 honor choirs include Minnesota’s own Sigrid Johnson (High School Women’s Honor Choir); James Litton (Community Youth/Boys Honor Choir); Edith Copley (High School Mixed Honor Choir); and Anthony Trecek-King (Middle School/Junior High Honor Choir).  Requirements for participation in ACDA Honor Choir include complete memorization of the material.

“They will have to have their music memorized completely by the time they get there (to Texas),” Larson said. “They check every singer, and if you’re not up to snuff, you sit out the rehearsals until you learn the music.”

Max Boyd also recently returned from performing in the Minnesota Music Educators Education (MMEA) All-State Mixed Choir, along with fellow DLHS senior Emma Wood.  Also selected for All-State honors this year were Jacob Kempenich, who performed in the All-State Men’s Choir, and Maddy Schiller, who performed in the All-State Women’s Choir.

Taking MMEA all-state honors this year are, clockwise from top left, Max Boyd, Jacob Kempenich, Emma Wood and Maddy Schiller.

The performances took place on Saturday, Feb. 16, at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, as part of the annual MMEA mid-winter conference.  The MMEA All-State program for band and choir students begins each March with live auditions at sites throughout the state; this year, Detroit Lakes has been selected as one of the audition sites, Larson noted.  “Heather Trowbridge (DLHS band instructor) and I are the hosts,” Larson said. The auditions take place on Friday, March 15.

Over 2,000 students across the state audition each year, with more than 575 being selected to participate in the All-State summer camp experience, held in August.  “They spend a week in rehearsals with the conductor (during All-State camp),” Larson added.  The students then spend the next six months preparing for their Orchestra Hall performance.  “It’s a significant accomplishment for all of them,” Larson said.

Participation in All-State and ACDA Honor Choirs can also lead to even bigger accomplishments.  McKenzie Mann, who was a freshman when she was chosen as member of the 2011 ACDA National 9-10 Honor Choir, was subsequently invited to participate in the 2012 ACDA National Touring Choir, which performed in England last June.

Emma Wood and McKenzie Mann

And Emma Wood, because of her participation in the previous year’s MMEA All-State Choir program, was invited to audition for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) All-National Mixed Choir Ensemble in 2012.

That audition earned her a trip to Washington, D.C., last June, when the ensembles took part in a performance at the Kennedy Center.

Upcoming performances

Larson’s students aren’t resting on their All-State and National Honor Choir laurels.  Most of them will be performing at the DLHS Winter Choral Concert this Thursday, March 7, which was rescheduled from Monday. The concert is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. inside George Simson Auditorium at the Detroit Lakes Middle School.

The Ninth Grade, Varsity and Concert choirs will all be performing, along with the Laker Singers.

Several of Larson’s students will also be participating in the DLHS Music Scholarship Concert, scheduled to take place Monday, March 11, at 7 p.m. inside the George Simson Auditorium at Detroit Lakes Middle School.

A few of the scheduled performers include vocal soloist Shea Larson; the Laker Jazz Band; Laker Singers; Roosevelt 4th Grade Singers; and local “big band” favorites Doc & the Scrubs.

Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students in grades 6-12 and free for all students in grades 5 and under. Family ticket packages are also being sold for $10.   All proceeds will benefit the DLHS Music Scholarship Fund, which awards music scholarships to graduating seniors who plan to pursue either music education or music performance as part of their post-secondary academic career.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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