Five Petersburg high school students participated in All State Music Festival. (left to right) Skipper Erickson, Hannah Fundt, Kelly Engell, Kelsa Sperl, and Nathaniel Lenhard. Photo courtesy of Matt Lenhard

Five Petersburg high school students participated in All State Music Festival. (left to right) Skipper Erickson, Hannah Fundt, Kelly Engell, Kelsa Sperl, and Nathaniel Lenhard. Photo courtesy of Matt Lenhard

Five Petersburg High School students participated in the All State Music Festival in Anchorage. The students were chosen to participate in the festival through auditions that teacher, Matt Lenhard, recorded in the school’s band room. For choir, the students sang America the Beautiful along with a series of scales.

Junior Kelly Engel went to the state festival as part of mixed choir. She says auditioning didn’t make her that nervous.

“Not really because you’re just singing in front of Mr. Lenhard and I guess I was used to that already so it wasn’t that nerve racking,” Engel said.

The festival included 14 hours of practice spread throughout four days. Students played and sang with other musicians from around the state. All of the students had to go through a second round of auditions.

Petersburg senior, Skipper Erickson, was one of four students in the state playing the euphonium.

“It was a little bit scarier doing the live audition because you’re nervous and you’re performing it in front of people who are judging you,” Erickson says.

“Judging very harshly,” adds sophomore Nathaniel Lenhard who went to the All-State for the trombone.

“They’ll be about two judges for each instrument,” Lenhard says. “You go into a small room about this size which is kind of small. And the two people will tell you, ‘Ok, take out this piece of music and go from measures like say 45 to 62′ and then you’ll play that and they will not tell you how you did. The only way you know how you do is when they tell you what chair you are.”

The live auditions for the choir are a bit different. The students were sent music about a month in advance. Junior, Hannah Fundt, who sang in the all-girl treble choir, explains.

“You’re supposed to have it by heart when you get there,” Fudnt says. “And for choir, how they kind of check up on you like if you learned your music or not is something called octets which is eight people. You’ll go into a room with a judge right across from you and they’ll just pick a random part of your music and they’ll say, ‘Ok, sing measure 18 through 32 or whatever. Usually it’s not too bad if you know your stuff.”

It was Fundt’s second time at the All-State Festival. She passed her octets as did Kelly Engell and sophomore Kelsa Sperl.

“It was lots of really amazing voices that sing,” Sperl says, “and it’s really fun being able to sing and make a really pretty song.”

Music teacher, Matt Lenhard, has built up the music program in Petersburg over the last 17 years. Although local students go to All-State every year, Lenhard was surprised that five were accepted. He says Sperl and Engell were new to his choir program.

“Kelly being brand new to choir, she’s a very good trumpet player, and she joined choir and has a beautiful voice,” Lenhard says. “Kelsa also hadn’t been a student of mine until this year. I was aware that she did sing but she came into the program and made the state choir. . .pleasantly surprised.”

Lenhard believes that success breeds success and having students participate in the All-State Festival helps Petersburg’s music program keep growing.

“We practice our music on this island kind of in a vacuum,” Lenhard says. “We are the music of our high school community. But when we get to travel, whether it be I take everybody to Southeast Music Festival or I take a select group either to Regions, State, or Northwest, they’re getting to see the context of music is made everywhere. So, there’s that aspect on a base level, like “Wow, I’m singing along people from Anchorage, Barrow, Bethel, Nome, Homer, but also when they get together and realize you know, the performance level of this group is very good and their being with a conductor who is excellent. It’s a cool thing. It encourages them, it enlivens them, and they come back and it’s contagious.”

The All-state festival is the big achievement of the year for most students but euphonium player Skipper Erickson was also accepted into the All Northwest Music Festival, which happens every other year. The festival includes students from six states playing together in Spokane, Washington in February. Erickson is the only Petersburg band student to go to the All Northwest since 1999.