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Eleven district chorus students sing their way to the top

By Rachel Shirey

rshirey@news-daily.com

JONESBORO — Eleven district chorus students hit a high note with scores exceeding 90 percent at the recent All State choir competition.

These students will now participate in the All State choir in Savannah Feb. 21-23 with high school singers from across Georgia.

The students had to undergo two auditions to be accepted into the choir. They had to practice their sight reading, take a theory test and sing a solo for a “stone-faced” panel of judges before they were able to progress to round two.

“I practiced for my first audition half of my summer because I could not sight read,” said ninth-grader Cornelius Daniel, who scored a 100 percent. “Probably still can’t.”

During the second audition, students were required to sing a piece of music assigned by All State, which will be perfected during the rehearsals in Savannah.

“They (the judges) want to start from any random part in the song so you have to know everything about that song because they can start anywhere,” said 11th-grader Kamar Johnson, who scored a 97 percent. “So if you only learn the first page, and they want to go over the second page, like, what are you going to do? You don’t know it. We had to spend a lot of hours studying our music and going home and studying it on our own time.”

Most students said they began practicing in late August and Dr. Kay Pace, fine arts magnet choral director, helped them perfect their skill.

The students were required to learn several pieces of French and Italian music, and Johnson declared he had difficulty with the high registers.

These self-proclaimed perfectionists unanimously exclaimed how white-knuckled the process was, but the pressure was mostly self-inflicted.

“This is my second year auditioning and I think the first year is not nearly as nerve-racking because the first year you’re nervous to be there for the first time, but the second year your like, ‘Wow, I really want to go back there and do it again,’ ” said 10th-grader Brian Jones, who scored a 98 percent. “So I feel like it was more pressure this time to try to get back to that level.”

Despite a relatively high score, 11th-grader Michael Stewart, who scored a 94 percent, said he came out of his audition kicking himself for messing up and not performing up to par.

“When I did my piece, I was like, ‘Yeah, I know this song like the back of my hand,’ ” Stewart said. “And then I messed up and I was like, ‘Oh no! I practiced this song hard.’ I did everything and I messed up, but fortunately I made it. So I’m happy about that.”

There was even a small rivalry between brothers Cornelius and Cortez Daniel. Cornelius scored a 100 percent on his first time auditioning, while 11th-grade veteran Cortez Daniel scored a meager 99.7 percent.

“In my defense, I blame the judges,” Cortez Daniel said. “They didn’t give me a starting pitch. I asked for one and they were like, ‘Oh, you get eight clicks.’ And I was like, ‘That’s not a pitch though.’ So I made up my notes completely, but by the grace of God I still made a 99.7 percent. I was so angry I was going to write a letter.”

All jokes and competition aside, the 11 qualifiers said they had fun with the process, despite the challenges of sight reading and a loss of social life.

All students said they are looking forward to their aggressive, yet fun, practices in Savannah with new people.

All qualifying students from Clayton County are listed below with their scores:

• Cornelius Daniel (100)

• Cortez Daniel (99)

• Alneda McKnight (99)

• Mykel Perdue (99)

• Brian Jones (98)

• Eldred Eady (97)

• Kamar Johnson (97)

• Christoph McFadden (97)

• Mai Nguyen (96)

• Michael Stewart (94)

• Kha Tran (90)