Westminster students attend All-State


Selected All-state orchestra students stand in front of Pressly Hall.

Every year, Westminster performing arts students in the Middle and Upper Schools audition for the All-State Orchestra, Band, and Chorus, organized by the Georgia Music Educators Association. The rigorous three-stage audition process ensures the selection of musically gifted students to perform at the GMEA event in Athens in early March.

In the past, the selection process consisted of two auditions, but it was increased to three this year. The students first attended a pre-screen video audition, then proceeded to a “first pass” at the district level, followed by the All-State audition.

“This made it so that a lot more time had to be spent on All-State auditions, especially around times when I was busy,” said sophomore violinist Sophie Wang.

The audition for orchestra and band students includes scales, prescribed etudes, and sight-reading skills. The material in the chorale audition consists of musicianship exercises and an excerpt from an Italian aria, a short, opera-like classical solo.

“But by far, the most difficult aspect is sight-reading,” said choral director Chris Walters. “Students sight-read or sight-sing three unknown examples, in major and minor keys of varying difficulty.”

Preparing for all the audition aspects is no simple task, as many students are athletes who have after-school commitments in addition to their regular schoolwork. 

“I typically practice once the etude is released to master the rhythm and intricacies of the piece, put it on hold, and then practice it more frequently as the audition approaches,” said sophomore flutist George Jabren.

In addition to practicing on their own, the students work with private teachers and directors to prepare their scales, prescribed etudes, and sight-reading skills.

“All of the Westminster directors serve as mentors who can provide feedback as requested by the student,” said Scott Stewart, orchestra and band director.

After months of preparation, the musicians proceed to the live auditions, where they, along with many other students, will be scored by judges as they perform.

“It’s just slightly nerve-wracking hearing all the people go before you and seeing their reactions after,” said Jabren.

Due to the pandemic, last year’s All-State program contained many precautions to ensure the safety of the musicians. 

“We had recorded auditions last year, but they were in person this year, which I’m glad that they changed,” said sophomore clarinetist Jaimie Koh.

Luckily, this year’s All-State has returned to in-person auditions and rehearsals. However, protocols like proper sanitization and mask wearing are still enforced.

“Frankly, it’s a bummer to sing in masks, but of course, we want our students and teachers to be safe, so I’m just glad GMEA was able to mount an All-State Choral festival this year in the first place,” said Walters.

An in-person performance not only allows the musicians to assemble together to create music but also brings the opportunity to meet new people.

“One of the great joys of All-State is to assemble students who do not know each other and put together a high-level concert experience in a short period of time,” said Stewart. “Many friendships are made at these rehearsals.”

The friendships made at rehearsals and reunions are what many of the musicians look forward to the most about the program.

“I am most looking forward to getting together with my friends in and out of Westminster. Sometimes, I meet people I haven’t seen in years,” said Wang.

Typically, Westminster has high representation in the All-State Orchestra, Band, and Chorus. Usually, about half the students who audition for the  All-State Chorus are accepted any given year, with this year being no exception. In 2022, Westminster had 17 students accepted into the Allstate Orchestra, Band, and Chorus.

Many students audition each year regardless of their results last year, and many of those who persevered were able to see their hard work pay off this year.

“I have auditioned every year since seventh grade, but this is the only year that I made it,” said sophomore Leah Black-Holmes. “Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I hope that I can do it again next year.”

While not everyone who auditioned was accepted, all the students deserve to be recognized for their hard work and perseverance in preparing for All-State.

“We are decidedly proud of any Westminster student who makes the extra effort to prepare for these auditions,” said Stewart. “Practicing an instrument or voice adds an entire additional layer of disciplined study for these young musicians.” 

Despite the outcomes, the students continue to persevere and practice for the upcoming year.

“Every year, I remain particularly proud of those students who don’t give up after one year or one audition process of not being accepted,” said Walters. “That’s what it’s all about- not giving up after one year of not making it. Keep on auditioning and working hard, and eventually, those students usually see a pay off at the end!”