Horizon Honors at All-State

HHHS students reach for the stars at music festival


Laurel Fink

Junior Brigit Fitzgerald smiles with her bassoon at the Arizona All-State Music Festival.

Addy Bennett, Editor-in-Chief

On the 12th of April, ASU Gammage hosted the All-State Music Festival, in which six Horizon Honors Students took part. Senior Aubrey Chaston succeeded in her quest for a part, landing first soprano, along with sophomore Cam Oakes and junior Bennett Wood as tenors, junior Abbey Fitzgerald as a soprano; parts in the orchestra included junior Chris Westersund on trombone and Brigit Fitzgerald on bassoon.

Wood described the audition process as “one of the most stressful things you can go through as a musician.”  In regards to the steps of the audition, he said, “Once you make and participate in your regional festival in either choir, orchestra, or band, you are then eligible to audition for the All-State music festival.When you arrive at Gilbert High School, you sign in with your musical group’s representative, and receive your score sheet for your Sight-Reading and Solo Performance.”

Chaston shared, “The first part of the audition involves preparing and memorizing and classical song and performing it in front of a judge. This is always the scariest part for me because they are judging the quality of my voice.”


After they were judged on their “raw talent,” as Chaston mentioned later, they followed up with sight reading and block-and-contrapuntal (two or more melodies that usually differ from each other but combine to make a complex sound) pieces.  The auditionees were required to then sing their part to the best of their ability, with no practice of the pieces beforehand.


“When I audition for anything, especially for something like All-State, and I know it may sound weird and conceited, I don’t get nervous. I get excited, I feel confident, and I tell myself that I’m going to do well, and usually I do. If I don’t feel confident I tend to choke up and fail or perform at a lower level of quality than I could have,” Wood said about his emotions during the process.


Chaston had a similar experience.  “After getting a smile out of the reportedly grumpy first judge, my confidence grew and I was mostly just excited for the sight-singing. The second my audition finished I was anxious to know how I had done.”

While the auditions went smoothly for both Wood and Chaston, the relay of the results did not go as well.  Usually the auditionees heard back the night of the last audition day.  However, the results were delayed and auditionees received word back at about 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.  “I had been freaking out all day,” Wood said.

“I was thrilled when I heard that I had made it in to All-State for another year. When I learned that I had not only made it but was first chair soprano, I jumped up and down, screaming with excitement. I had to reread the text from Mrs. VanderLey several more times that day because I couldn’t believe that I had done that well,” Chaston said about the announcement.

Wood then talked about the process of receiving and learning their music.

“We all received our music via email and the postal mail on the next day at school. We would be performing “Laudate Pueri” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Chantez a Dieu” by Jan P. Sweelinck, “Windham” by Daniel Read (1785) arranged by our director, Brad Holmes, “Himne” by Roelof Timmingh, “I Am In Need of Music” by David Brunner, and “Heartland” by Gary Fry.

All were chosen and directed by Dr. Brad Holmes, who is the Choir Director for Millikin Choir at Millikin University in Illinois, who was awesome.”

Wood shared that the singers were required to memorize all of their music in about two and a half weeks.  After their time was up, the entire group was organized into octets (two people for each voice part) and tested on the memorization.  If a person failed to pass, they were given more time to review, and then tested again.  If they failed again, they would be replaced.  Even under the pressure, all of the Horizon Honors students succeeded.

“I spent some time every day on my music, and went over at least two songs a day. I started at the beginning of each song, figuring my part out on the piano and then practicing until I could sing it without the help of the piano. Once I knew the songs decently, I used the recordings the All-State powers-that-be sent us and tried to sing along. Once we got back into school, I started practicing with the other kids that had made it into All-State. We used a couple choir classes to practice and spent some time after school,” Chaston described.

Wood and Chaston were very satisfied with the final display.  “The performance was fantastic! It was a beautiful stage and a lovely concert for all three groups. Performing at Gammage is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity, and I can’t believe I got to do it before I got out of high school! I will never forget this experience; it was truly breathtaking,” Wood gushed.

Chaston exclaimed, “Words cannot express how much I enjoyed myself. All-State is an escape where all I have to think about is music and the people I’m around care about music as much as I do. We get hard music that challenges me and helps me become a better musician. We get to learn from skilled teachers that each have different techniques to offer. All-State has given me the best musical experiences of my life, and I wish I could do it every year.”

“I am going to work extra hard this next year on sight singing and my solo performance so that I can score higher and attend All-State again next year. I am also excited to send in an audition for Nationals. Fingers crossed!” Wood commented, looking towards the future.

All-in-all, the performance was exceptional, and all the students excelled at their concerts. For those who missed the wonderful display of talent and skill, make sure to save the date for next year, because it will be just as magnificent and full of wonder as before.