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Lake Orion singers go to states

From left, students Laura Pavliscak, Olivia Demmers, Alexis Sargent, Evan Thurwachter, Alex Capasso and Julia Donaven pose at the Pioneer High School Auditorium in Ann Arbor. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
December 12, 2012 - By Olivia Shumaker

Review Staff Writer

Four Lake Orion students will have an opportunity next month to perform in a state honor choir concert.

Seniors Alexander Capasso and Evan Thurwachter, junior Olivia Demmers and sophomore Alexis Sargent, all members of the Lake Orion High School choir program, have been busy preparing for Jan. 16, 17, and 18, when they will perform in the Michigan Schools Vocal Music Association state honor choir concert at DeVos Symphony Hall in Grand Rapids.

The process began back in September, in the first week of school, when choir director Deborah Fristad talked to students about going out for honor choir. Each school can only send 32 singers—eight sopranos, eight altos, eight tenors and eight bases—so Fristad is selective in who to send. Within the first week of school, students interested in trying out had to audition for Fristad, so she could assess a variety of factors including tonal quality and musicianship in addition to the student's commitment to the program.

"I had to know they are an advanced enough student to do this at their level," Fristad said.

Students auditioned in mid-October. Those who passed the first round went to the regional choir—Michigan is divided into four regions, with Lake Orion in Region C.

These students received three to four new pieces of music that they performed on December 1. After rehearsing and auditioning all day and giving an evening concert for the public, students left the concert to find out who made the cut for state honor choir.

A few weeks after the January dates, the remaining students will find out who made the cut for all state choir based on the December 1 auditions. All-state choir will perform in May at Western Michigan University.

"There were probably about 3,000 students who started this process in October, and now we're down to about 300," Fristad said.

Every round of auditioning requires a new set of music to be memorized, in addition to sight reading, which is when students are given a piece of music they have never seen before to perform for a judge. Due to this, students have to spend a great deal of time rehearsing independently as well as in class. Lake Orion participants received some class time to work with the program's vocal coach, Haley Watts, in addition to time spent practicing together.

"They did a lot of individual work on their own as homework—primarily that's how they prepared for it," Fristad said.

Where the state group is made up of three choirs of equal quality—men's, women's, and mixed—the high school choir program has a tiered system, starting with campus choir where all students begin to learn basic skills, music theory and some music history. From there they move on to chorale, which grows  these skills using intermediate to advanced high school-level music, and above that is chamber choir, the most selective choir group learning collegiate level music. All of these groups will perform in a winter concert and fundraiser on December 13, which will feature both holiday and general winter music. In the meantime, the four Lake Orion state honor choir members will continue to prepare for January.

"You go in, you do your best, you let the chips fall, and you accept the decision," Fristad said.

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