Illinois Music Education Association Participants

Joseph Granat, Feature Editor

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Four North students participated in a state-selected music group as part of the Illinois Music Education Association [ILMEA] on Jan. 25-27. The chosen students will be rehearsing with their ensemble to perform at the Peoria Civic Center arena on Jan. 27.


“It is a big deal because 25,000 musicians audition for this event and I was one of about 150 that made the honors group,” junior Michael Witt said.


The students who represented North are band members senior Emmy Hensley and juniors Kaitlyn Kowalski and Michael Witt. The selected chorus member is senior Katherine Buchanan.


“I’m so excited. This has been a goal of mine since I was little,” Buchanan said.


Whilst attending ILMEA, the North students performed with around 200 other teenagers and world-renowned directors Joseph Manfredo, Brady R. Allred and Jeffrey Grogan.


“It’s always a positive experience. They get to work with guest conductors from all over the US,” band director Tim Hatcher said.


North is located in the last of all nine districts. The most musically talented students were picked by their teachers to perform their prepared pieces in front of multiple judges. The band members had to perform their scales, etude, and sight reading while the choir students sang their scales, “Earth Song”, “Regina Ceoli”, and sight read.


“I’ve practiced since summer and the audition was in October. From there, [the judges] picked four students from each district,” Buchanan said.


Musicians from schools across the state are chosen through a multi-stage audition process. First, the students perform in a district audition. From here, four kids are chosen from each district to move onto state auditions. These are designed to designate the musician into an all-state group or into an honors group.


“District 9 is the most competitive section in the state,” Buchanan said.


North is not unfamiliar with ILMEA as students have previously been accepted into the all-state bands and choirs. In early 2017, senior Nico Lipari attended ILMEA representing North’s choir as a vocal bass.


“I sang and walked around Peoria. The music was hard, but we sight read through it and it was fine,” Lipari said.


The ILMEA experience differs significantly from other festivals and competitions that North has participated in. ILMEA features students selected state-wide to sing together with their fellow music colleagues and learn about the meaning behind what they will be performing. The teens attended seminars featuring lessons about the art of music and rehearsals lasting for hours on end.


“In All-State football, you don’t get to play as a team. In All-State music, you get to play together,” Hatcher said.


Each rehearsal lasted around five hours at a time starting from late Thursday up until the end of Friday. Musicians spent a total of fifteen hours practicing for their concert over the course of a day and a half. The teens had fun with the chosen pieces to perform as they ranged from upbeat tempos, to ballads and Latin songs.


“Rehearsals were fun but also hard to get through. Especially when you play a [tuba] like me who doesn’t always get a lot of love from the composer,” Witt said.


Starting at 3:30 p.m. in the Carver Arena of the Peoria Civic Center, the honors band began the concert with a piece titled “Celebrations” and two other songs, all conducted by Manfredo. The honors chorus, directed by Allred and accompanied by William Buhr, performed seven songs including their auditioned piece “Earth Song.” Honors orchestra’s only piece was “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.” The concert concluded with a grand finale that incorporated the Illinois state song and acted as a joint piece between the bands and choir.


“The concert went amazing. My favorite part of the concert was during our finale piece. It was a gospel song. The audience loved it. They loved it so much that we ended up getting a standing ovation in the middle of the song,” Buchanan said.


Performing in ILMEA is beneficial to North students who want to further pursue a musical future. They can earn scholarships and now have a deeper knowledge on musical performance. Not only have these students made a name for themselves, but they have had North recognized across the entire state.


“It made me realize how important music is in my life and without it, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today,” Buchanan said.

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