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Infused with music

All-State musicians (from left) Orissa Nitbhon, Cameron Jenson, Aubrey Anderson and Ivan Parge pose in the WHS choir room. Brian Korthals/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Five Worthington High School (WHS) students represented their school and community last week as participants in All-State music camps, sponsored by the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA).

Chosen from among hundreds of candidates statewide after recording audition tapes last March, the WHS students were placed in two bands and two choirs — and they couldn’t be more enthusiastic about their experiences.

“I loved every single second of it so much that I didn’t want to come home,” said WHS senior Aubrey Anderson, who sang the Alto II part in the Women’s Choir, under the direction of Mary Kay Geston.

“Every day — and we probably sang nearly six hours each day — they came up with different concepts to help us better perform our pieces, and I was just so thrilled to be in a choir with 80 of the best young women in Minnesota.”

Joining Anderson at the All-State choir camp, which was at Concordia College in Moorhead, were fellow seniors Bianca Alvarez (Alto II, Mixed Choir) and Ivan Parga (Tenor II, Mixed Choir).

Meanwhile, on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield, WHS junior Cameron Jenson played his trumpet in the All-State Symphonic Band (directed by Scott Hagen) while senior Orissa Nitbhon plied his tuba skills in the All-State Concert Band (under the baton of Craig Kirchhoff).

“It was very intense, but fun,” said Nitbhon, who kept his lip in shape earlier in the summer as a member of the “Amazing” Worthington City Band. “I liked playing with other people who shared the same goals — wanting to make music and be crazy.”

The selection of these five students for All-State music ensembles didn’t happen by chance; they were among roughly a dozen WHS musicians who practiced etudes, scales and/or fine-tuned solo art songs last winter before recording audition tapes that were then objectively judged.

“It’s always valuable when students get an opportunity to audition for groups that further their musicianship, and it’s a bonus when they are accepted into that membership and learn different ways to play their instruments, or to study under different conductors,” explained Jon Loy, WHS band director. “I was quite excited to see Orissa and Cameron get in to All-State, because meeting other students from around the state who share the same passion for music is one of the elements Minnesota All-State is all about, and the fact they were in separate bands means they will bring back even more perspective of the experience.”

Kerry Johnson, director of WHS choral programs, was similarly delighted with this year’s outcome.

“They worked really hard and were well prepared before they left for camp,” Johnson said. “It’s always an honor to have Worthington students represented in All-State music groups, and we were lucky to have three choir students accepted this year.

“I’m very proud of our kids, and their work ethic and determination,” she added.

The local vocalists, in turn, are grateful to Johnson for her assistance throughout the process, which will be capped off Feb. 13-14, 2015, with concert performances in Minneapolis during the MMEA winter conference.

“It was very helpful to work with Ms. Johnson, because I had more background with the music when we got to camp, and I was one of the few people who had actually practiced regularly with a director before All-State,” said Alvarez.

Said Parga, “We met with Ms. Johnson once a week during the summer, and were so far ahead in terms of knowing our music when we got there, so we were really grateful to her.”

Jenson and Nitbhon were also appreciative of the support they received en route to All-State camp.

“I prepared and practiced a few times with Mr. (Mike) Andersen on the etudes for the audition, and Mr. Loy was also very helpful in that process,” said Nitbhon, while Jenson said, “What helped me a lot was getting input from various people, and each person helped me in a different way — Mr. Loy, Mr. Andersen, my grandpa who played trumpet in college and a workshop at Southwest State in Marshall.”

While hours of playing and singing for five consecutive days, under the leadership of charismatic, college-level conductors, would alone make for a memorable experience, the contact the students had with other participants will stick with them, as well.

“I loved it because when we walked around campus in our free time, you could hear eight-part harmony, with people just getting together and singing random stuff,” saidAnderson.“It was a singer’s dream, pretty much.”

Parga concurred.

“It was fun being with other musically talented kids all week, because in Worthington, if you walk around and just start singing, people will give you weird looks — but there, with some of the best high school singers in Minnesota, everyone had music in them,” said Parga.

“I loved the food, too,” said Alvarez with a smile.

As they move forward into the 2014-15 school year next week, these five kids will have plenty to fill their time.

Nitbhon, who played to waves of laughter as the Cowardly Lion in the WHS production of “The Wizard of Oz,” is a WHS marching band commander, cross country runner, Knowledge Bowl team member and also sings in the Concert Choir, VOX and Trojan Express. He plans to attend Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter the following year and is considering studying pre-dentistry or chemistry.

Parga is on the marching band set crew and is also involved with school plays, FCCLA, AOK, speech, Concert Choir, VOX and other activities. His post-graduation plans are fluid at present, but he knows where he’ll be tonight: performing from 6 to 8 p.m. at BenLee’s in Worthington as part of a musical “showcase” night that’s open to the public.

Alvarez sings in the Concert Choir and Bel Canto and participates in school plays and musicals, AOK, FCCLA and speech. She hopes to attend the University of Minnesota to study either psychology or English, and plans to continue singing in college, as well.

Anderson is also in Concert Choir, Bel Canto and Trojan Express, as well as being a trombonist in the school band.

“I know I want to go into either biology, chemistry or biochemistry,” Anderson listed, “and I’m really interested in medical research.” Her two “front-runner” schools at this point are Augustana College and South Dakota State University, Brookings.

Jenson, a year younger than his local All-State peers, is merely looking forward to his junior year of high school and his continued involvement in band, Concert Choir, VOX, Trojan Express, cross country, swimming, track, Knowledge Bowl, orchestra and Student Council.

“It will be fun to reunite with the friends I made last week when we get together in February, and, of course, there’s a chance some of us may be together again for All-State next year if we make it through the audition process next winter,” Jenson commented.

Johnson and Loy are pleased that five of their music students were part of the All-State music program this year and hope for continued success for future auditonees.

“They were great representatives of our district and our region,” said Loy, noting there was only one other student from this corner of the state — Madi Oye of Luverne, who sang in the All-State Women’s Choir with Anderson — selected for an All-State group this year.

Confirmed Nitbhon, “The All-State week was definitely a highlight of my life so far.”