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Washington High School students perform at the library

GTNS photos by Gretchen Teske

Gwendolyn Flannery performs her audition piece on her oboe at the Washington Public Library on Friday, Oct. 19.
GTNS photos by Gretchen Teske Gwendolyn Flannery performs her audition piece on her oboe at the Washington Public Library on Friday, Oct. 19.
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The Washington Public Library was alive with the sound of music on Friday, Oct. 19, as 11 Washington High School students performed their All-State audition pieces at the library.

The students ranged from freshmen to seniors and brought along a variety of instruments to play. A small crowd of parents and friends gathered to watch the students play as they geared up for the All-State Music Festival auditions that took place at Washington High School over the weekend.

The All-State Music Festival is sponsored by the Iowa High School Music Association and is a yearly music competition that invites high-school students from around the state to meet in a central location to perform instrumental or vocal musical selections for a judge.

The students were given their music choices at 5 a.m. the morning of the competition and must learn them before their audition time. They are then sent in to audition in front of a judge who has a rubric and takes notes on style choices such as tone, dynamics and diction.

Select students are then on a callback list for the judges to hear again while others are simply chosen for the All-state choir or band.

Instrumental music teacher Don Hughes said sending kids to All-State not only gives them a unique experience, but a goal to work toward.

“They’re pushing themselves to their limit,” he said. “They’re always reaching for a higher standard of musicianship.”

He explained that although not all of them make the choir or band they audition for, they all get a positive experience because it gives them something to work for the following year.

“Even the kids who don’t make it improve so much,” he said.

Sophomore Christopher Wallerich was hoping to gain a positive experience from his first year auditioning. Wallerich, who plays the baritone saxophone, has been practicing for two hours a day, seven days a week, since July.

He had high hopes of making the All-State band but said he would not be disappointed if he did not. “It’s mainly to get the experience and to see what it’s like,” he said.

Hard work like Wallerich has put in is essential for success. Vocal music instructor Jonathan Runaas said one of the reasons to send students to All-State is because the music is much more demanding than what they would normally play within the classroom.

“Having the more challenging literature allows the students to go into it with a depth that they’re not normally accustomed to at their age level,” Runaas explains. “The more challenging literature allows them to work hard and by working harder they improve.”

Looking to improve this year is junior Audrey Wubbena, who plays alto saxophone. On Saturday she auditioned for the third time.

She said this year she took more time to focus on the details of the music and pay more attention to the details.

“In the last few years I’ve been able to break down my music a little better and listen to myself as I practice to know what parts need work,” she said.

Wubbena says even harder than the preparation is the audition process. Being in a room with someone judging her music is intense, but it’s a challenge she says she’s willing to face.

“If you walk in and you know your music, it’s not as nerve-wracking,” she explained. “But either way, you only have one chance to impress them.”