Seventeen Lakeland Union High School band and choir members had the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the Great Northern Conference (GNC) All-Conference Band and Choir Concert, held Saturday, Nov. 10, at Rhinelander High School.
“It was just an honoring experience,” Brenden Emmerich, junior, bass singer, said. “When I got there and read the sign, ‘All-Conference Singers,’ it meant that we were chosen out of everyone in the conference to sing for this one performance.”
“It was pretty cool. I was selected for first chair saxophone, which was kind of a surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting to be first,” Lucas Paulson, senior, alto saxophone, said.
Select students from seven schools across the region came together to be part of the honors band and honors choir under the leadership of guest band director Dr. Timothy Yontz, director of music education at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., and guest choir director Dr. Lucinda Thayer, director of choral activities at UW-Stevens Point.
“Those kind of things are always really fun. I’m in solo ensemble, forensics and theater festival, and you see those people all the time,” Suzanne Holcombe, senior, soprano singer, said. “So you make new friends and you’re able to maintain them by seeing them at things like this.”
Though students had the music ahead of time, the day of the concert was also a day of practice. From 9 a.m. Saturday morning up to the concert held at 7 p.m., band and choir members worked together and practiced as a whole for the first time.
“By the end of the day you can’t get those songs out of your head,” Melissa Lisowski, senior, soprano singer, said. For band members, practicing together with the group in its entirety had a concrete benefit.
“It was hard to get what the song was supposed to sound like when we only had six people practicing,” Whitney Hewitt, senior, flute, said.
For several of the LUHS students, this was their inaugural trip to the GNC Concert.
“I was so pumped. This was my first time going to GNC so I was really excited to go,” Meredith Bensen, senior, alto singer, said. “It was very impressive knowing that we were all working on this together, and it was a much more enjoyable environment because no one was dragging their feet and everybody was really keen on learning the songs.”
“I think that’s one thing that’s really refreshing about stepping into a different choir,” Shelby Hilbert, senior, alto singer, said, agreeing with Meredith. “A lot of time with high school choirs people just take it as a class. They don’t think of it as a craft, and singing actually is a profession. Going to a choir like GNC, everybody cares and everybody tries and everybody is focused.”
Participating in GNC was a learning experience for many.
“Personally, I got a lot better from it,” Luke said, describing his role as first chair saxophone. “I felt kind of pressured because I was first part and I had a solo in one of the songs. I was really nervous ... but it pushed me to actually learn it and learn to play it well.”
“It was a learning experience to the fact that you weren’t always the leader in your section compared to where you kind of are here. It was a team, more or less,” Austin Cook, senior, tenor singer, said.
Sarah Hirsch may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.