The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 14, 2014

Mankato student-musicians pluck All-State honors

Showcase concerts on Saturday at Orchestra Hall

By Tanner Kent

---- — Audition day.

Even for the best musicians, it's day fraught with anxiety, self-doubt and introspection. For a sophomore who is auditioning for one of the Minnesota Music Educator Association's All-State ensembles for the first time, it's a day unlike any other.

"Yea, it is intense," said Elissa Schmiel, a Mankato West junior and choir member who is among the contingent of Mankato student-musicians participating in this year's All-State ensemble performances on Saturday at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Due to the rigor of the rehearsal schedule and the difficulty of the music, students audition nearly a full year in advance, thus Schmiel was only in 10th grade when she auditioned. "Definitely nerve-wracking."

Each year, thousands of high school students across the state vie for spots in the All-State band, orchestra, jazz and choir ensembles. Only a fraction are selected for the honor that includes a week-long summer camp and culminating performance in the same building that serves as home of the Minnesota Orchestra.

For most students, performing some of the world's most beautiful music in a world-class venue packed with spectators represents a significant scale of difference from their high school auditoriums. Still, students said they are prepared for anything after surviving audition day.

"With auditions, I was so nervous," said West junior and clarinetist Emma Murray, "that everything after that is a piece of cake."

For Murray, auditions included playing 11 scales, in succession and in one continuous take. She also played an etude and sight-read for the judges. Choir auditions, such as those endured by Mankato East's Mason Bultje and Mankato Loyola senior Grace Hermer, included singing a solo selection, demonstrating tonal memory and sight-reading.

After being passed over for All-State as a junior, Hermer said she was "honored" to be selected this year. She said she improved by studying with voice teachers, performing regularly and practicing her audition music for "months and months" in advance.

Mankato senior Ben Mackie, a French horn player who made All-State band for the second consecutive year, said the advantage of experience definitely pays off.

"I would say it was definitely easier the second time around," he said.

Yet, this year's crop of All-Staters will be the last to undergo the live audition process. Beginning with this year's auditions, high school music instructors were allowed to record auditions that were standardized by professional music organizations.

For more information about MMEA and the All-State experience, visit

MMEA All-State Participants This year's All-State participants from Mankato include: Mankato East: Chandra Bouma (orchestra), Mason Bultje (choir); Mankato Loyola: Grace Hermer (choir); Mankato West: Mackenzie Lach (orchestra), Ben Mackie (band), Emma Murray (band), Maria Soroka (band), Elissa Schmiel (choir).