EVANSTON — Thirteen Evanston High School students have been honored with selection to the 2021 All-State Choir, the largest group of local students ever selected. Five EHS students were selected for the All-State Jazz Choir and six outstanding vocalists were honored with selection to the 2021 All-Northwest Choir.
Heather Blackwell, EHS Vocal Music Director, said more than 20 students prepared pieces and auditioned for the highly selective groups, with many students preparing pieces for two or three of the groups. Auditions were recorded and submitted electronically this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic necessitating other changes as well.
All-State Choir honorees Heidi Barton, Hyrum Baxter, Jonathan Baxter, Gage Beachler, Hadley Blackwell, Savanna Hatch, Sophie Kallas, Riley Ovard, Linzy Sharp, Jarod Stahl, George Stephen, Robertson Walker and Braxton Young have been participating virtually in what is usually a large event held over the weekend prior to Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.
Blackwell said originally the group was to travel to Laramie to rehearse and perform with 160 other students from around the state; however, when health orders prohibited the gathering of large groups, it became a virtual event and rehearsals were postponed until Presidents Day. Students spent that day rehearsing with clinician Angela Kasper from Western Washington University via Zoom.
“It was a different experience in the online format, but there were many laughs and the students had fun,” said Blackwell. “This was the largest group of Evanston students that have ever been selected to All-State Choir, so while we were disappointed to miss out on the in-person event, we are very excited to have so many Evanston students selected.”
Blackwell said now that rehearsals are over, the students will be recording their songs and a professional company will be editing and combining those recordings to create a virtual performance.
The situation was a bit different for the All-State Jazz Choir, which is a much smaller group. Only 20 students statewide were selected, with five of those — Savanna Hatch, Linzy Sharp, Heidi Barton, Hadley Blackwell and Andrew Munoz — from Evanston. Blackwell said this was the first year she encouraged students to audition for the All-State Jazz Choir, which was able to rehearse and perform in person during the Kinser Jazz Festival held at Casper College on Feb. 1-3.
Conductor for the All-State Jazz Choir was Brennan Baglio, who taught at Northwest College in Powell before moving to Washington state. Blackwell said the Kinser Jazz Festival marked the first time Baglio had worked with students in person since the pandemic caused lockdowns last March.
The All-Northwest Honor Choir event is held every other year and includes students from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. With so many schools closed to in-person instruction throughout those states, auditions were postponed this year until the Northwest Choir Board could formulate a plan to move forward.
Auditions were finally submitted in December and the EHS students selected — Riley Ovard, Andrew Munoz, Hadley Blackwell, Linzy Sharp and Madison Sepos — will participate in a virtual event on April 24. If not for the pandemic, the group would have traveled to Spokane, Washington, this month to rehearse in person and perform.
Blackwell said, “This is a highly competitive group to audition for, but many schools did not get the opportunity to complete auditions since they weren’t in-person at school. We are fortunate to have been able to meet face-to-face all year and our students were very prepared for their auditions.”
Blackwell said she is thrilled so many students were recognized, particularly this year. “It’s been amazing to see our students overcome the challenges they have faced with singing during a pandemic and find success in these honor groups.”