Every year, students that are interested in participating in the state singing competition with the Texas Music Educators Association are signed up and given music as early as August leading into the next school year. The same pieces of music are used throughout the four rounds of the competition where the kids are graded on both singing performance and sight reading. While 70,000 students enter in to try out, only 200 are chosen to move onto the final stage. This year, Pampa had four students make it to All-State Choir, two of the students being 1st chair, one being a 2nd chair and the fourth being a 3rd chair. The 1st chair being the highest ranking, but making the choir at all is a huge accomplishment for a young singer.
“While only four made it, it was a beautiful moment for all the students,” Director, Tammy May said. “Everyone celebrated in the wins of the four students and also the accomplishment of making it that far. It was just an amazing moment all around.”
The four Pampa students that made it were Kate Smith as a first chair, this being her third year making it. J. Clark Allen, the second first chair. Abbie White, a sophomore, who made second chair and finally Aiden Chapleau who made 3rd chair. The choir had two sopranos, a bass and a tenor make it. All four kids have been in choir since junior high.
Kate Smith who is a senior at Pampa High made her third appearance in this TMEA competition.
“It’s really nerve racking, every single time,” Smith said. “But I also had my tonsils taken in the summer so I jumped in kind of late while still recovering from my surgery.”
Smith, who is heavily involved in choir, also takes vocal lessons with a woman out of Amarillo to help hone in on her singing ability.
“It’s a relief to make it, and even if you don’t make it, it’s still a huge accomplishment,” Smith said. “I was super nervous this year, you finally get to take a breath of relief and I just can’t be more grateful for this in my senior year.”
The students will now gear up to go to San Antonio in February with the other 200 students that made it to the TMEA Convention and will perform as a whole choir.
“Getting to go to San Antonio is just such a cool experience,” Smith said. “You’re surrounded by people who love music as much as you.”
Smith plans on going into Music Education after finishing high school and to teach in either the high school or elementary level. Smith also received a perfect score on her final performance.
Also landing a spot at 1st chair was J. Clark Allen, a fellow senior at Pampa High who is involved in choir with the school, but also releases music on his own.
“I love music,” Allen said. “I did this competition the first time because my parents really felt like I would do good, and I’m glad I listened, their push into it really helped me to learn to love doing it and being a part of it.”
Along with being in choir, Allen is also involved in Tennis, P.R.I.D.E. Crew, Student Ambassadors and NHS.
“This is an honor, truly,” Allen said. “Not everyone makes the final cut, and making it feels like such a blessing. It just feels like a dream, like I still haven’t come to believe it.”
Allen has already started releasing his own music under the stage name ‘YBD Tsunami’ and has plans to attend college and sing in a college choir but won’t pursue it past that on an education level. ‘YBD’ a stage name Allen made up on his own, meaning Young, Blessed Dreamer.
“I love music, so I just started making my own,” Allen said. “It’s something fun to do, it’s a passion. Anyone can listen to it, I’ve put it out onto every streaming service.”
The third finalist, a junior in high school, Abbie White landed a second chair for All-State. White has also been a part of choir since junior high and taking part in the TMEA competitions for as long as she could.
“This process is very stressful,” White said. “You get the music over the summer and then you go through all the auditions where they make cuts each time. But once you get to the All-State audition it’s all the kids that are so passionate and want to make it to the next stage so it’s just that much more stressful.”
White mentioned at each level of the auditions, all the kids spend the wait time building Lego© sets to take their minds off the competition. Since this is just her junior year, White plans to take part in the competition again next year.
“It was so relieving to make it this year,” White said. “I cried my eyes out, you can ask either of the directors. So I am looking forward to next year to do it all over again, and hopefully make it all the way again.”
After graduating, White plans to attend Texas Tech and pursue a career in music education.
Aiden Chapleau, the final member of Pampa High to make it to All-State landed himself at 3rd chair.
“This being my senior year and final chance made it more nerve racking,” Chapleau said. “But I just did what I could to calm my nerves and do what I came to do.”
This is Chapleaus’ second year making it. Due to Covid the students that made it last year participated in it online.
“We are so proud of these kids, the ones that stuck it out and gave it everything they had,” Director, Tammy May said. “They cried together and rejoiced together and it was such a sweet moment. Most of these students doing this are putting in work outside of the classroom, they give full dedication to this and go all in.”
Congratulations to the students that made it all the way, and to the directors that work tireless hours to work with the students.
The four students and the directors will set out in February to San Antonio for the All-State clinic and convention where they will perfrom as part of the All-State Choir.
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