For the first time in 13 years, A Wrangell high schooler participated in the Alaska All-State Music festival. All-State brings top student musicians and vocalists together for a weekend of rehearsals and culminating performances. KSTK’s June Leffler spoke with freshman vocalist Robyn Booker about her experience.
Robyn Booker spends three days practicing for the biggest choir performance of her life. She’s well-rehearsed, but a little nervous, like the rest of her ensemble.
“It sounds pretty good. Now no one faint on stage because that’s going to be bad,” Booker says.
Apparently, fainting is a real possibility for the excited, stressed out, hard-working students. At a dress rehearsal, someone does faint and others sit, worrying they might go down too.
“There’s this girl at the soprano end, which is at the other end. She sits down. Somebody at the soprano II sits down, which is closer to me. And then it gets into the altos,” she says. “And I’m like ‘OK I guess I’m next.’ No I did not faint though.”
More than 700 student vocalists auditioned for a spot at the all-state music festival. A quarter of them were selected to perform at West Anchorage High School.
“It was kind of overwhelming to see how many people were there,” Booker says. “Knowing I was the only one from Wrangell. And all these other kids were from the interior and the north of Alaska. It was kind of frightening, I’m not going lie; it was very frightening.”
More than 300 singers and musician high schoolers across the state gather to perform the weekend before Thanksgiving. These are band, orchestra and choral students, like Booker. They get to work with college conductors from all over the country.
Tasha Morse is Wrangell schools music director. She says Booker’s audition tape was good, like unbelievably good.
“I told her, you know we don’t submit a whole lot of these. We have to pay for the audition it’s a small fee, but I said ‘we got to submit this’,” Morse says. “It feels good as a teacher to say I’ve got a kid that can sing and participate at this level. It’s not easy music, nothing about it is easy.
Booker sings complex compositions, some in Latin.
“The songs they chose were hard, but doable,” Booker says.
Booker says she learned the importance of vowel shapes, counting and pronunciation.
Wrangell’s school choir has 12 students. Booker performed with five times that many students at state. She says that gave her a new appreciation for the form.
“When you get a really good choir it sounds like one voice singing,” she says. “And that’s kind of what every choir aims for is that one voice. The harmony in all of it, the one melody that mixes together perfectly.”
Booker says she will audition next year and she’ll raise the stakes. She’ll try out for alto II first chair.