Choir students take part in festival

Participants compete for spot in All-State performance

Jaclyn Cummings, Reporter

Out of 750 students and 80 high schools, 19 LT Choir students were selected to perform in the annual Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA), which took place Nov. 19 at Elmhurst University.

“When students [are able] to work with other students who represent the ‘top singers’ from other schools, there’s an added artistic satisfaction with the rehearsal process and the eventual performance,” ILMEA Chorus President Frank Piekarz said. “A very high percentage of the singers will remember their experiences fondly for the rest of their lives.”

In order to determine who will be performing in the music festival, the ILMEA program divides Illinois into nine districts, with LT being a part of District 1. The ILMEA Board then conducts a rigorous audition process, where they rank students based on how well they learned their parts, strength in rhythmic skills, and beauty in the sound, Piekarz said. Qualifying high schoolers were then invited to perform in the District 1 Band, Orchestra, and Choir show alongside other musicians their age. From there, they competed for a place in the All-State ILMEA performance. Among the LT students, Julia Blumhagen ‘23 was one of the few chosen.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get to sing at ILMEA and I learned so much,” Blumhagen said. “[Taking part has helped me] better my singing and learn a little bit more about music that I may not get to learn in class.”

LT choir director John Musick teaches six different choir groups throughout the day, with David Hartley teaching five others. While the students chosen for ILMEA occasionally practice together outside of class with Musick, it is largely up to the individual to properly prepare, Musick said. In fact, the District 1 Choir only meets the day of the performance, and rehearses from 8 a.m. until the 4 p.m. performance. 

“[ILMEA is a valuable experience because] working on your individual skills like scales, triads and sight reading, as well as [performing] challenging and beautiful choir music, is rewarding,” Musick said.

LT supports ILMEA participants by funding the traveling expenses and motivating the students to grow from the opportunity, Blumhagen said. Additionally, Musick encourages all students to audition at the beginning of the school year and take part in the unique experience. 

“[ILMEA] definitely [has] a more competitive feeling in the air [because] everyone wants to go to All-State,” Blumhagen said. “You have no idea if the person you’re standing next to is ranked number one in the district, whereas in [school], it’s a big group of friends getting to sing with each other, so it’s a lot more casual.”

Choir students who are interested in auditioning for ILMEA are able to pick up music at the beginning of the school year, Musick said. They can then send in an audition video in early October, where the ILMEA board will reach out to the selected students. In addition to the 19 choir students chosen, 22 other LT musicians were selected for the district band or orchestra. After the November show, individuals progressing to “All-State” will go on to perform Jan. 25-28 at the Peoria Civic Center. 

“Choir has always been a safe haven for me and gives me a break from a lot of the stress I experience from school or anything else,” Blumhagen said. “As far as participating in ILMEA, I was lucky enough to get chosen to go to All-State last year and I had so much fun getting to perform with some of my choir friends, which is why I chose to audition again this year.”