By STEPHANIE N. LEHMAN – [email protected]
ROUND LAKE – Karina DeAnda has been playing the flute since she was in fourth grade. She practices an hour in school every day and three hours a week outside of her normal lessons.
The hours have paid off. The Round Lake High School junior was accepted into the Illinois Music Educators Association District 7 All-District Band out of 800 high school musicians that auditioned for a place in the prestigious ensemble. More than 100 students auditioned on flute; DeAnda was one of 18 selected.
“It is quite the achievement,” RLHS band director Krista Millard said. “When you have a student who’s responsible to say, I’m going to invest myself in this situation and do the best I can … you hope it was good enough, and when you find out, you find that commitment did pay off.”
DeAnda’s audition in mid-October consisted of playing scales, two prepared pieces and sight-reading a piece – performing music she had never had time to practice before.
She will perform Thursday, Nov. 13, at the IMEA District 7 Senior Festival at Evanston Township High School. She and the other band students will have approximately four hours to rehearse as a group before they perform before a crowd that could easily exceed 1,500, Millard said.
Though being selected into IMEA is one of the highest sanctions a high school musician can meet, Millard said being selected into IMEA is about more than music. It reflects individual character. And DeAnda has felt the difference.
“I’m not as shy any more,” DeAnda said. “I’ve been more responsible getting my work done, and I put a lot of me into my work.”
DeAnda isn’t the only RLHS student to shine in the spotlight. Three male members of the school’s top choir – the Panther Voices – were selected to the IMEA District 7 Festival Chorus, and two of them have been invited to re-audition for All-State choir.
Juniors James Neigel and Lindon Warren and senior Jon Stiverson all will perform at the Saturday, Nov. 15, IMEA District 7 Festival in Evanston.
Neigel and Stiverson will be pulled aside from rehearsal that day to audition for two of the top spots in the state in choir. It’s the first time in many years that RLHS has had anyone qualify for All-State, choir director Kristin Moroni said.
Neigel, who sings bass, comes from a family of musicians. His older brother was in Panther Voices for four years; his mother made All-State choir in Massachusetts when she was in high school. The bar has been set high for the junior.
But he knows what it takes to meet those high expectations. This is already his second year to make IMEA.
“Last year, I kind of slid into making IMEA. I was content to getting there,” he said. “This year, I really prepared for the auditions. And I felt confident when I left [the audition room].”
For All-State, Neigel will be asked to sing two excerpts from All-State pieces, sing scales and triads in a tonal room, and sight-read two pieces – perhaps the biggest point factor in the audition.
It’s something he’s wanted for a long time.
“It would be a very proud moment,” he said of the All-State opportunity. “And then I could learn from better singers around me. I’m really striving for it.”
Neigel’s best friend and fellow choir member, Stiverson, is also back for a second year in IMEA. Accepted as a sophomore year, the tenor missed acceptance last year, but worked his way back up to getting a shot at All-State.
The process hasn’t been easy, he said.
“You walk in that room; the room is silent,” he said. “It’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Your mind just empties out; you concentrate on one thing and it feels like it’s 10 seconds long.”
But Stiverson knows that as a senior, this is one of his last chances to make a name for himself before he’s shipped off to duty. He will graduate in May and join the U.S. Navy in early summer.
So, he practices. Five days a week. Before he goes to work at K-mart, after school in the car; Stiverson is always singing.
He’s been rewarded in the past. He and Neigel were two points away from a perfect score at Richmond-Burton High School in March for a duet contest.
But a possible trip to Peoria in January to perform with the All-State choir is the ultimate prize, he said.
Using the experience
Warren made IMEA by the skin of his teeth this year, being selected only after a tenor two dropped out of the performance.
But it’s an experience Warren plans to use to his advantage. His goal, after all, is to follow Neigel and Stiverson and make All-State.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said. “[I’m looking forward to] having a good experience with the whole combination of choirs.”
He’s already noticed what two years in Panther Voices has provided, including the ability to perform in different languages.
“I sound better in French than I do in English,” he said, laughing. “I’ve come a very long way.”
The IMEA District 7 Senior Festival concert will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, at Evanston Township High School in Evanston.
Can’t make the concert? Tune in for a delayed broadcast of the concert at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, to WFMT 98.7 – Chicago’s classical music radio station.