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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Four Knights earn Texas All-State Choir spot

Four Knights earn Texas All-State Choir spot

TODD MARTIN 

KISD Communications

 

Killeen ISD high school choir students earned six spots in the Texas All-State Choir, the most to make the state’s top scholastic choir in 12 years.

“Earning a spot in the All-State ensembles is extremely difficult,” said KISD Fine Arts Director Karen Herrera.

“Students must learn extremely demanding and difficult music, participate in three elimination rounds over many months and audition against thousands of others to earn a spot in one of these choirs. This is a tremendous accomplishment.”

The all-state choir member from Ellison High School is senior Alexandra Davies. Ellison choir directors are Amy Triggs and Cassy Zanfardino.

All-state choir members from Harker Heights High School include seniors Abigail Freeman and Eddy Juvier, junior Taunty Motu and sophomore Juan Nava. Choir directors are Tommy Haygood and Bethany Cowen.

All-state choir members from Killeen High School include senior Phillip Velarde and alternate sophomore Avalyn James. Choir directors are Cody Parrott and Sandra Mattson.

The process begins at the beginning of the school year with about 20,000 high school choir students across the state. In the local area, students completed three levels of auditions, with the state-qualifying event January 7.

At the final level, students sang portions from three songs, chosen by the judges. They also performed sight-reading pieces.

HARKER HEIGHTS HIGH

The four All-State Choir members from Harker Heights High School represent the second-largest group among high schools in a region that stretches from Corsicana to Waco, Bryan-College Station, Killeen and Lampasas.

“It’s a life-altering experience for these kids,” said Heights choir director Tommy Haygood, calling the All-State Choir the highest honor a high school choir student could achieve across America.

“It was the best feeling,” said Abigail Freeman, a senior and the school choir president. “I worked hard for three years and I knew this was the year to really go for it.”

She credited directors for helping her and her peers polish their skills for the highest levels of competition and said she worked at home as well. The choir president praised her peers, too.

“I was really happy,” said junior Taunty Motu. “Mr. Haygood pushed me to practice everyday. I was prepared.

Sophomore Juan Nava said he was shocked to find out he made the cut in his first attempt. “It was surreal at first,” he said. “I prepared an hour or more a day. I know I work well under pressure.”

Senior Eddy Juvier, in his second year at Harker Heights High School, narrowly missed the top choir a year ago when he was still getting used to going to school in America.

Prior to his junior year, Juvier lived with his military family in Belgium, where he sang in a school choir of about 14 students at a school of about 100, he said.

Last year, he came within a fraction of making the top choir in Texas. “I think that pushed me a lot,” he said. “It’s my senior year and I had to get it right.”

Upon graduation, Juvier plans to attend music school and study vocal performance. “It’s become part of my identity, being here in this family environment. I’m so grateful for this experience. The best part for me is making music with all these friends.”

“It comes down to personal dedication,” said Bethany Cowen, a HHHS choir director. “They are talented, but it’s hard work that paid off. It’s rewarding to see these students learn that their work and dedication helped them meet their goal.”

The Texas All-State Choir will participate in clinics and rehearsal and will perform together during the Texas Music Educators Association Convention Feb. 8 to 11 in San Antonio.

Abigail Freeman Senior Soprano 1 All-State Treble Choir sixth chair

Taunty Motu Junior Bass 1 All-State Men’s Choir fifth chair

Juan Nava Sophomore Bass 2 All-State Men’s Choir fourth chair

Eddy Juvier Senior Bass 2 All-State Mixed Choir second chair

KILLEEN HIGH

Killeen High School’s senior tenor, Velarde, is part of the top high school choir in Texas for the third year in a row.

The Killeen High honoree said he’s not sure how he managed the achievement three times in a row, but credited his choir directors’ direction and acknowledged he worked hard to improve each year.

He earned the eighth chair as a sophomore, improved to sixth chair last year and as a senior earned the second-chair position in the All-State Mixed Choir.

“I feel like I barely made it my first time,” Velarde said. “The second year I knew the system better. I saw a pattern and worked to my advantage.”

“My favorite part is the experience itself,” he said. “Meeting so many people with similar interests is what I enjoy.”

His peer, James, trying out as a sophomore, earned an alternate position in the All-State Treble Choir. “It’s worth the time and effort because it feels good to make good music singing about everything from nature to God. It has so much meaning.”

Phillip Velarde Senior Tenor 1 All-State Mixed Choir second chair and three-year All-State student

Avalyn James Sophomore Alto 2 Alternate All-State Treble Choir

ELLISON HIGH

A “strong, fierce work ethic” propelled Ellison senior Alexandra Davies to All-State Choir status, her choir director Amy Triggs said.

Last year as a junior, the hard working choir student just missed making alternate at the state level. She responded by getting hold of the music for the following year as soon as it was available and went to work.

With a free first period, Davies spent many mornings in a practice room. The school’s choir directors worked with her and arranged for a voice teacher to give further input.

“It was kind of surreal,” Davies said about finding out she finally reached her All-State goal. “I was confident this year and I finally made it – a nice ending to a very long day.”

Like all the All-State honorees, she made it through region and pre-area and finally the area competition that served as the state qualifier. She sang parts of three songs to five judges, and then sang sight-reading pieces.

“I’ve been singing my whole life,” she said, “and I’ve been in a school choir since third grade. It’s a passion and I love it.”

Following graduation in May, she is headed to Baylor University to study music education and possibly become a school choir director.

“With Alex, she did it on her own,” her director said. “She has a strong, fierce work ethic. She’s such a competitor. She set a goal and fought for it.”

Alexandra Davies Senior Alto 2 All-State Treble Choir seventh chair.

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