Charles City HIgh School makes great showing at All-State Music Festival
By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Ten times the amount of people apparently makes a difference,” said Charles City High School junior Anders Haglund, talking about his usual experience singing in a school choir of about 60 members, compared to the All-State Chorus of 602 members.
Haglund was one of seven CCHS students who spent most of last weekend in Ames, having been selected to join the elite of high school musicians in the All-State Band, All-State Orchestra and All-State Chorus.
“We had a very successful year,” said high school band director and teacher Jacob Gassman. Previous years have seen various numbers of students who tried out for the statewide honor being selected. Seven is at the top.
“This year we do have a great, talented and dedicated group of specifically upper classmen,” Gassman said. “We had one freshman get in, but otherwise our upper classmen are pretty darn serious about what they do and really love music, so it seems to make sense that we would have more success this year for that reason.”
This year’s Charles City All-Staters are Haglund, chorus, tenor; Sophia Jensen, band, flute; Griffin Franksain, chorus, tenor; Hailey Fisher, band, string bass; Emma Schmiedel, orchestra, violin; Harper McInroy, orchestra, viola; and Shemaiah Lara, band, clarinet.
Franksain, Schmiedel and Lara are seniors; Haglund, Jensen and McInroy are juniors; and Fisher is the freshman.
“Their dedication is bar-none,” Gassman said. “I hear them practicing a lot, and signing up for extra lessons. It takes a certain level of natural talent, but if you don’t foster that talent, nurture it, it’s not going to go anywhere. These guys have done a great job of nurturing their talent.”
Sam Naumann, orchestra director and teacher, said his two upper-grade All-Staters, Schmiedel and McInroy, helped run sectionals and run things when he’s gone.
Gassman said, “I think an understanding that comes with it is not only does it take talent but it takes understanding that this is an ensemble thing that we’re doing. Our leaders are very ensemble-focused, not just talented musicians.”
Haglund and Lara were also selected for All-State last year, but didn’t get to enjoy a performance because the 2020 Music Festival was canceled because of COVID-19.
Harper, who was selected for All-State for the third time this year, is the only one of the seven to have performed at the event before, Gassman said.
Franksain, Haglund and Jensen spent some time after they came back from the festival talking with the Press about the experience.
All three agreed the most nerve-wracking part of the process began well before they went down to Ames.
“Auditions are probably the most stressful things I have ever done in my entire life. Especially call-backs,” said Haglund, referring to the All-State auditions that were held Oct. 23 at locations around the state.
“They line you up, one through however many get called back, and you have to wait as they slowly call you in. If you are at the back of the line you have to wait for an hour and a half, just anxiously waiting,” he said.
According to the Iowa High School Music Association and Iowa Music Educators Association, which present the annual event, only about 17% of the students who audition are selected for All-State status. In Charles City this year, seven out of the 12 who auditioned were picked. Teagan Prigge, a junior, was also selected as an alternate in chorus.
For the festival, the high school musicians gathered on Friday to rehearse that day and Saturday, then presented the festival concert Saturday night in Hilton Coliseum on the Iowa State University campus.
Jensen said, “When it comes to the actual event, I had the most amazing time. First of all, to be surrounded by that many people who do the same thing you do or who are that committed to it — it really just moves you.
“And the sound in there, I love it when you hear everyone. It was an amazing weekend. I had so much fun. I met a lot of really great friends. It’s just an amazing, amazing opportunity,” she said.
There were more than 1,000 students selected for All-State this year, 278 for the All-State Band, 214 for the All-State Orchestra and 602 for the All-State Chorus.
This was the 75th year for the event, Gassman noted, and in honor of the anniversary musical compositions were commissioned for each of the three ensembles.
Two of the conductors were former All-Staters themselves, Gassman said.
“It was a great experience because it had lots of ties back to the Iowa All-State Festival of previous times,” he said. “It was a great past, present and future event.”
Haglund talked about the sound produced by more than 600 voices, saying, “The musicianship of the people there was leagues above anything I’ve ever heard.”
He mentioned a time he saw one of the composers slip in to listen to a rehearsal of her piece.
“There’s this great, slow crescendo up to this big moment, and when I looked over at her I saw her crying, and when I saw her crying I started to cry. I think that says a lot about the music we made, about how impactful it was,” Haglund said.
Franksain agreed, saying, “It was absolutely just incredible. I honestly don’t have words for the music that was being made on some songs. I cried on multiple songs because it was just amazing, and being a senior this is my last year to do this and I’m just really happy that I got in.”
Jensen laughed and added, “I also cried.”
Gassman said one of the neat things this year was a young artists concert on Friday evening.
“It was musicians that had formerly been All-State musicians in Iowa and are now performing professionally across the world. They came back and gave their experience on what they did in the All-State ensembles and then they all performed a couple of pieces for all of the All-State kids and directors,” Gassman said.
“It was a phenomenal concert. It was good for these guys to hear professional musicians, to know that they were sitting in the seats that these guys currently are, and have now gone on to make money as performers,” he said.
Naumann said it’s also important for the students to realize that, even if they have no plans to pursue music professionally, there is room for music to remain an important part of their lives.
“I know plenty of people, like down in Iowa City, I know plenty of people who are nurses and doctors at the University of Iowa Hospital who in the summer will play in pits (pit orchestras) or community groups, and play really well,” Naumann said. “It shows these kids that they have the opportunity to do that, it can be part of your life, even if it’s not your main source of income … , that they still have that capacity to play at that high level.”
Iowa Public Television recorded the concert Saturday evening, and will replay it twice, the first time from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Thursday, and the second time from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 19.