WHS students to perform in All-State music groupsFour qualified to represent Worthington at Orchestra Hall
WORTHINGTON — Four Worthington High School (WHS) students are prepared — and eager — to play and sing Feb. 19 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. As members of two select All-State music groups, seniors Brandon Berger and Isaac Wass, along with juniors Claire Bents and Rachel Sternke, will perform at the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) Mid-Winter Clinic on the home stage of the Minnesota Orchestra.
By: Jane Turpin Moore, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Four Worthington High School (WHS) students are prepared — and eager — to play and sing Feb. 19 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
As members of two select All-State music groups, seniors Brandon Berger and Isaac Wass, along with juniors Claire Bents and Rachel Sternke, will perform at the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) Mid-Winter Clinic on the home stage of the Minnesota Orchestra.
“I haven’t been to Orchestra Hall before, but I hear it’s one of the coolest experiences ever, so I am really excited,” enthused Bents, who will play bass clarinet as part of the MMEA All-State Symphonic Band.
Joining her in that ensemble is Wass on tuba, while Berger and Sternke will sing in the All-State Mixed Choir in the Bass I and Alto I sections, respectively.
“The kids who make it into an All-State group are elite musicians, having exhibited a combination of talent, self-discipline and hard work that has gotten them where they are,” expressed WHS band director Jon Loy. “It’s a high honor, for sure.”
More than 2,000 Minnesota high school musicians audition annually for All-State music groups; just over 500 are accepted for one of the seven ensembles.
“It’s a very selective process,” confirmed Kerry Johnson, choral director at WHS.
“They have to know their stuff, and it says something about the caliber of kids we have here that they’re able to hold their own against those from the Twin Cities area who have easy access to private voice or instrumental lessons with instructors from professional musical groups or university music departments.”
While several other WHS student musicians auditioned for All-State status last March, only these four were selected based on live auditions that required them to perform a prepared piece of music and demonstrate their sight-reading skills, tonal memory and scale-playing ability, depending on each group’s audition requirements.
“I was sort of shaking,” Sternke recalled of her audition, “but luckily the judge was good at putting me at ease.”
Sternke is too modest; she and her three WHS All-State mates are seasoned musicians and performers. All are in band, choir and select music ensembles at WHS, all are regular cast members in WHS musical theater productions and all have been active in the “Amazing” Worthington City Band.
In addition, Sternke and Wass are WHS orchestra members — Sternke being a violinist and Wass a cellist — and Wass played in the Worthington Area Orchestra’s inaugural concert last December.
It is, in fact, the second trip to Orchestra Hall for Wass, who qualified in 2009-2010 as a Bass II in the All-State Men’s Choir (Berger was a vocal alternate last year). His versatile musical excellence is a rare achievement.
“I wanted to experience different kinds of All-State groups,” explained Wass, declaring that he enjoys each of his instruments for various reasons.
“On the cello, I love playing classical Baroque music, like Bach and Handel, but on the tuba I like more exhilarating pieces — especially polkas — and singing is another whole ballgame.”
The chance to meet other high-achieving young musicians from around the state is one of the chief appeals of participating in an All-State music group, and something each of these students cites as a valuable take-away from the gig, which began with a six-day summer camp at a Minnesota college (Concordia College in Moorhead for the band students and St. Olaf College for the vocalists).
“I made lots of friends, even though the first couple of days at the camp Rachel was the only person I knew,” revealed Berger. “The whole thing was truly life-changing. To go and achieve a common goal — making quality music — with other students who are the best in the state was a remarkable experience.”
Hard work is definitely part of the All-State expectation, as well; the students were required to know their music before arriving at their respective All-State camps, which offers no harbor for slackers.
“We had some really intense practices,” noted Bents. “We’d practice about seven hours a day, with a couple hours of recreation time daily.”
Currently, the students are reviewing their music in preparation for their Orchestra Hall appearances, and the two juniors are also in the midst of gearing up for another round of All-State auditions, as they aim to be accepted into an All-State group again for 2011-2012.
Meanwhile, Berger and Wass are contemplating college choices and courses of study, with Berger being fairly certain he may major in music education — possibly at St. Olaf — and Wass being similarly confident that, while music will always remain an important part of his life, it will likely be an avocation.
“All-State has shown me I can do very well musically, but I think when I get older I will play and sing music for pure enjoyment,” mused Wass.
As the All-State weekend approaches, Sternke and Berger are looking forward to singing what they both identified as their favorite piece from among the eight numbers they will perform: “Your Children Are Not Your Children” by contemporary composer and Minnesota native Joshua Shank.
“It’s an important theme for high school seniors, about learning to be independent, and for parents, about the need to let go and not live your lives through your kids,” detailed Berger.
“When we sang that song, I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself — I got chills every time we sang it,” admitted Sternke of the piece. “I think that’s what music is supposed to be about.”
Only two other students from the greater Worthington area are in 2010-11 All-State groups: Karina Fast, Mountain Lake, who will play French horn in the All-State Concert Band, and Kara Homandberg of Murray County Central, who will play the harp in the All-State Symphonic Band.
The MMEA All-State music groups perform on Saturday, Feb. 19, at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Tickets for the concerts may be purchased at minnesotaorchestra.org or by calling the Orchestra Hall box office at 1-800-292-4141.