Below is an article written by SFHS student journalist Mary Hammarlund.
Students Prepare to Shine at State Music Festival
Sheboygan Falls High School students will soon be given the opportunity to shine at this year’s state Solo and Ensemble festival. Solo and Ensemble is an annual event in which music students study and perform a piece selected from a list. Students are then given critique of the performance and are awarded a rating based on defined criteria. According to the Wisconsin School Music Association(WSMA) website, “Through the Solo & Ensemble experience, students learn the discipline of rehearsal, are challenged to advance their musical skills, perform in front of an audience and adjudicator, and receive feedback on their performance.”
In order to qualify for the state festival, students in grades 6-12 must perform at the district festival. The high school level festival was held in Sheboygan Falls on March 2, while the middle school level event took place in Kiel on March 9. Participants who receive the highest possible ranking, “starred first,” will qualify for the state festival. A total of eighty SFHS students participating in thirty-eight different events will be performing at Cardinal Stritch University on Saturday, May 4. Of these students, twenty are freshmen who will be attending the state festival for the first time. In order to help prepare students for the event, SFHS music teachers Derek Beekhuizen and Andrew Wojciehowski have given individual lessons to attendees.
“When preparing for State, the students have learned the notes and rhythms of their songs,” explains Wojciehowski. “We are helping their musicality grow through phrasing, dynamics, and passionate performances.”
Participants will continue to receive guidance from their instructors even while at the festival. While students prepare for their performance, Beekhuizen and Wojciehowski will meet with students and help them with their warm-ups. Wojciehowski also stated that he will help singers ensure that they do not allow nerves to negatively impact their performance. He will continue to assist nervous participants while other students are performing.
Students that are involved in the event have been working tirelessly in order to prepare themselves. “I’m practicing all of my pieces every day,” says Haley Drescher, a senior who is performing three pieces at the festival. “Even if I can’t physically practice, I listen to it or sing/hum.”
Another student, junior Abigail Charbonneau, stated that she is using the feedback from her district level performance in order to better herself for state. “Usually, to prepare, you review what the judges said at district because that is what they will be looking for at State,” she explains. “Other than that, it’s just practicing again and again. [...] Most of us who are going to state have been working on these pieces for upwards of four months!”
Senior choir member Brooklyn Mortimer says that she has been practicing in her class and performs in the dance room in order to see her facial expressions as she sings. She also sings along to recordings of her pieces on YouTube in her spare time. “These pieces are pleasantly challenging,” Mortimer asserts. “But once we get into them, it’s so much fun to sing as a large group!”
“It is hard to predict the results of State Solo and Ensemble. The rubrics are much harder than the district level and the score can vary from judge to judge,” explains Wojciehowski. However, he also stated that “Students are talented and should do well.”
There is precedent to this statement as well, as SFHS students excelled at the state festival in past years.