Thursday, October 18, 2007

I wanna go to All-State...and you can be my room-mate...

I just checked my alma mater's calendar (as in my old high school), and I realized that this is All-State Music Festival tryout weekend.


If I were whisked away to high school daze about now, my palms would be itching like crazy. Not good.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, every year the Iowa High School Music Association (pictured at right in their logo) hosts the All State Music Festival. At least, it's been every year for about 61 years or so.

At any rate, your favorite bipolar karaoeke diva auditioned to be in this festival four times, and made it three out of the four. Not too shabby.

Let me lay it out for ya, folks, as to how selective this thing is.

First off, for All State zoning purposes, the state of Iowa is divided into six (fairly) neat segments. My hometown was firmly nestled in the Southeast Iowa district. We used to host try outs at my local high school, but the location has moved around several times since.

But anyway...

We have a state divided into six parts. The Iowa All-State Chorus consists of 600 members, so that's 100 members per section of the state.

With me so far?

The chorus is not unison, needless to's divided into soprano/alto/tenor/bass (SATB). That means only 25 singers per voice part are selected, i.e. 25 sopranos, 25 altos, etc.

OK...let's be even more cruel...each voice part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) is divided further into I and II parts (as in Soprano I, Soprano II, etc.), and the math on that isn't quite as exacting unless a judge is willing to cut someone in half. So far, I don't THINK that's happened.

The vocal pieces are selected in advance and the auditioning students begin learning them when school starts in late August if not sooner. Therefore, by audition day the pieces should be down so cold that the judges should be able to test the singers' skill by selecting a random part of a piece and the singers SHOULD just jump right in and do it. (That's the goal, anyway...)

The band and orchestra hopefuls go through similar training, only they don't get to see the pieces selected for their portion of the festival. They have to prepare a variety of scales, an etude, and other exercises to show their skills. Again, the math is employed...only so many drummers, so many saxophones, so many violins, etc.

So basically on the last weekend of October, thousands of high school music students from all over Iowa will converge on one school district per region and try out for a finite number of slots in this festival.

Some will be selected, some will not.

Some will make it on their first try. Some won't make it ANY year they try.

Some only make it once, others all four times.

There will be tears of joy and tears of disappointment. I know, because I've shed them both.

I didn't make it my freshman year after working very hard, but I made up for it and went my sophomore, junior and senior years. At that time, my high school was a three-year high school so I figured it to be quite an accomplishment.

There were expected things...

  • the trip to Des Moines for rehearsals, and Ames for concerts.
  • Singing "America the Beautiful" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" with huge flowing concert arrangements behind me.
  • Watching the concerts on TV later, trying to find my face in a sea of faces.
  • Hugging my parents afterwards...I was so weary from the work but so happy it all came together and that the work had been worth it.
  • Seeing friends I had made the previous year, sharing inside jokes and griping about the curfews imposed on us.
  • My feet would hurt, and I would silently thank Big Ernie for the stadium seating so I could take my shoes off during the concert if I had to.

The last All-State concert I had the good fortune to sing in was also an anniversary concert (I believe it was 40 or 50 was 1986). We had some glorious pieces to sing, and they of course pulled out the stops for "Battle Hymn".

I remember we were always grouped in quartets for the concert seating, and the girl who was the "alto" in my little group had tears running down her face while we sang "Battle Hymn". We were both seniors in high school, and this was our last time so our sentiment was showing for sure. We looked at each other through runny Maybelline eyes and squeezed hands, both knowing that we probably wouldn't have this moment again.

But after twenty years or so, even now when I've moved away from the state of my birth and growing up, one thing remains around this time of year.

My palms itch in "sympathy anxiety" for the All-State Music Festival auditionees, if that even makes sense.

Dammit. Somebody pass the Benadryl.