Going all in for All-State music 2018

Anna Kenny

Many students are unaware of what All-State music is. “All-State is kind of how State is for any sport. It’s something you have to practice and qualify for, and it’s a great opportunity to become a better musician. I auditioned because I knew it would help me become a better player and it is one of the best bands to be accepted into as a high school student,” junior Kelly Williams said. Every year the Nebraska Music Educators Association (NMEA) puts on All-State as a way for many talented high school musicians to come together and perform.

The NMEA is a voluntary nonprofit governed by an elected Board of Directors. They have members from all across the state of Nebraska, and anyone who is involved in music, teaching or other educational work is invited to join. With 1,200, current members the NMEA’s mission is “to foster life-long learning and active music-making by all Nebraskans”

The Honors All-State choir selects freshman through seniors. The different parts of the ensemble include All-State Chorus, Band, Jazz Band and Orchestra. A nationally-recognized conductor is chosen to lead each part of the ensemble. This year’s conductors are Patrick Sheridan for Band, Helen Cha-Pyo for Orchestra, Z Randall Stroope for Chorus and George Stone for Jazz Band.

An audition starts the process Mr. Paul Niedbalski, Marian’s Orchestra and Band director said, “The Nebraska Music Educators Association provides audition material in the spring — one or two audition etudes, a set of scales and an excerpt from the All-State music — and students have the summer and part of the fall to work on it.”

Niedbalski explained that the audition used to be a live recording but now musicians submit their audition through a website. “It’s done through a website that only allows you to submit ONE take of your audition, so it still feels live, which I think is good,” Niedbalski said. Niedbalski explained that there are about 150 members chosen for the All-State Band and about 150 chosen for the All-State Orchestra.   


All-State takes place Nov.14-16. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning are spent rehearsing the music with conductors. Performances are on Friday at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln. This year junior Kelly Williams (oboe), junior Liz Young (tenor saxophone) and freshman Olivia Traxler (baritone saxophone) all auditioned for the All-State Band. Violin players junior Sophie Clark and junior Jacquie Smith both auditioned for the All-State Orchestra. Niedbalski explained that the girls who auditioned for the Band are also eligible to be chosen for the Orchestra since it is a full symphony and not just strings.

I started as soon as I could back in the spring and had been working on the etudes and excerpt for months,” Williams said. “The audition and audition process will probably always make me nervous because I always get nervous performing for big auditions like this, even though it is recorded you only get one attempt like a live version.”

This year, 11 singers auditioned for the All-State choir. One sophomore, two juniors and eight seniors. Choral director, Ms. Lauren Morrissey explained that about 450 high school students are selected to be in All-State Choir. “It is wonderful to see the joy that our students experience as they are connecting with new people and hearing the music in a large choir for the first time. We practice this music for weeks on our own, and the students are always blown away by the sound that 400+ voices can make,” Morrissey said about her favorite parts of All-State.

She also explained that this year, Marian Select Women’s Choir is learning a piece of Stroope’s in the All-State repertoire because it is a women’s chorus piece. “The music chosen for All-State is extremely challenging. Our students spend many hours listening to and practicing these selections,” Morrissey said. “Then when the audition cuts are announced, singers only have two days to prepare their audition and only one shot to record it. So, the stakes are very high and it means that students need to be dedicated to learning the music ahead of time and perfecting it quickly,” Morrissey said.

Last year no current students but senior Mary Watson was chosen for the All-State choir, “I met so many talented people,” Watson said. “My favorite moment was when we started our first song. Everyone was so tense, but as soon as the first note came out, we relaxed a bit and started having fun.

“I love to watch a group of high school musicians have the greatest musical experience of their life. For example, I play trombone with a lot of great groups and get to do a lot of really cool stuff as a professional musician. However, I still remember when I was in the All-State band in high school, and it holds up as one of my favorite musical memories. It’s a remarkable experience,” Niedbalski said.

He said, “It’s a major honor to make it in,” Niedbalski said. “As Mrs. Sullivan might say about the PSAT, it’s a really big deal.

Source cited: nmeanebraska.site


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