Singing at state: Seven WHS students in state-level groups this week

WORTHINGTON -- It isn't every week that Worthington musicians perform at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. But this week, three Worthington High School (WHS) students will do just that, and four more students will sing across the street at Central L...

Worthington High School choir students (front row, from left) Matthew DeSmith, Stephanie Lowry and Than Than Kyaw have been named to MInnesota All State Choirs, while (back, fron left) Davis Moore, Sarah DeSmith, Kalea Appel and A.J. Wass are MN 9/10 Honor Choir selections. (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON  - It isn’t every week that Worthington musicians perform at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.


But this week, three Worthington High School (WHS) students will do just that, and four more students will sing across the street at Central Lutheran Church.


In her eighth year as director of choral activities at WHS, director Kerry Johnson is shepherding seven students to their respective places in state-level honor choirs that are part of the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) annual conference, and she’s delighted that several have been chosen to participate.



“It’s always exciting to see that many kids qualify for groups like this so they can share the experience and atmosphere of the MMEA conference together,” said Johnson.


Three upper classmen - seniors Matt DeSmith and Than Than Kyaw, and junior Stephanie Lowry - will cap off their appearances with Minnesota All State Choirs. They will be in concert at Orchestra Hall on Saturday, with baritones Kyaw and DeSmith in the All State Men’s Choir and alto Lowry in the All State Women’s choir.


“They auditioned last March, singing vocal solos, an a cappella piece and a scale, and attended All State camp at St. John’s University for a week in early August,” detailed Johnson.


“I’m really eager to see all the people again who I met in August, and I’ve heard great things about singing at Orchestra Hall,” said DeSmith.



Added Kyaw, “I’ve never been to Orchestra Hall before, and I’m so excited to go there.”


Also making the trip to Minneapolis this week are three WHS freshmen and one sophomore, all of whom were selected for one of the Minnesota American Choral Directors Association 9/10 Honor Choirs.


Alto Sarah DeSmith will sing in the MN 9/10 Women’s Honor Choir, while alto Kalea Appel and baritones A.J. Wass and Davis Moore will be in the MN 9/10 Mixed Honor Choir.


“They rehearse from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday with a guest conductor, then are in concert at 5:30 p.m. that evening at Central Lutheran Church,” explained Johnson.



“More typically, we have one or two students qualify for these groups each year, and no school can qualify more than five kids, so this is a higher number to have in the 9/10 honor choirs,” she said.


The 9/10 Honor Choir participants auditioned last November, singing an a cappella piece and demonstrating their vocal ranges as part of the process.


“These are terrific musical opportunities for our students,” affirmed Johnson. “As a director, it’s exciting to have students qualify for these groups because it offers a lot of chances for them to bring back what they’ve learned to their ensembles at home.


“You can give students direction, but it’s up to the students to see how far they can take that, and if they’re willing to push themselves and put in the work to succeed in groups like these.”


Additionally, Johnson is pleased that one of the seven - Lowry, a two-time qualifier for the MN 9/10 Honor Choir before her selection to this year’s All State Women’s Choir - was selected for the even more elite National Honor Choir, which is sponsored by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA).


“The National Honor Choir is even more prestigious because it required a broader audition process and the competition is nationwide,” credited Johnson.


“It’s not something that happens all the time, and this really speaks to Stephanie’s ability, her unique talent and her dedication to her craft.”


Lowry will be involved in a four-day musical workshop from March 8-11 in conjunction with the ACDA’s annual conference, which happens to take place this year in Minneapolis.


“She’ll sing in another concert at Orchestra Hall on March 11, and Eric Whitacre is the conductor,” said Johnson. “It’s a mixed choir, and she is one of 300 students in it who were chosen from more than 4,500 nationwide auditionees.”


But first, Johnson is looking forward to seeing seven of her students represent Worthington and WHS in state-level choral ensembles this week.


“As a director, it’s wonderful to hear their concerts, and it’s rewarding to see the students get the payback for their efforts.


“When the students put in the work, connect the dots and take off from there, they can travel farther than they may have imagined,” Johnson said.

“For seven students to have this kind of high-level honor choir experience in one year is really amazing.”

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