Randy Schafer

Another All-State camp wrapped last August. Kids arrived at the camp not sure if they were “good enough” or thinking they were probably going to be the rockstar of the week. They were apprehensive about finding their social group. They thought about what their image would be among all of these singers. They were hard pressed to commit to a favorite song from this year’s program and were sure it wasn’t going to be as good as last year when they all connected on a very deep level. For the returnees, they were wondering which of their friends from last year were there again. And the great leveler begins. New campus, new facilities, new conductors, new section coaches were part of the first hours before the new conductor stood on the podium. Students leave that first rehearsal wondering how much better the ensemble could actually get.


The 22018-19 All State Choirs (SSAA Choir, TTBB Choir, and SATB Choir)
(Photo courtesy of MMEA)

Fast-forward to the end of the week and you see students taking ownership of the music in a way they never realized they could. They truly begin to perform the music from the inside out with people they have developed a trust with and a conductor who has shared her personal vision of the pieces and the All-State choir has adopted it. In the interim between the onset of the week of camp and those final minutes of rehearsal the students with initial doubts about their belonging in these groups have had those doubts erased. They have elevated their own estimation of what they can safely contribute to the ensemble. This week has been amazing for their musical ear. The prayer is that it will last when they go back to their home choir.

This is my last All-State camp. Being on this side of it, I want to encourage directors to consider the opportunity to serve as section coaches. Yes, it means giving up the week of Dialogue with its great reading sessions and soul-feeding reconnection to your choral colleagues. Yes, it means spending a week with kids you did not give birth to or grade on a daily basis, but it is so worth it. You get to know students who are hopefully doing their program proud and you hear the fruits of the labor of music instruction going into the musical development of that kid by their high school director, middle school director, elementary specialists, church choir director, and supportive parents. That is quite the legacy. I promise you will be changed by the experience.

All-State Section Coaches welcome singers to All State Camp
(Photo courtesy of MMEA)

More than a few times through the course of the week, I walked into rehearsals at particularly poignant moments and witnessed the section coaches wiping away tears, celebrating the steps forward in the music, and immediately setting a new bar. At the end of the week, section coaches – many with multiple years of experience – mentioned how special the week was for them. They talked about the profound moments of students reading “below the surface” of the music and finding a personal connection to it. They felt recharged to start the year. They felt inspired by the conductor on the podium, the accompanist at the bench, and the colleagues with whom they shared the section coaching responsibilities.

A final note to high school conductors who helped their singers arrive at this point. Thank you for the extra time to get students through the audition process. Having been through two of the All-State draft days, the process is so much more involved than I was aware all those years when I was submitting auditions. Minnesota is a truly all-state choir and though we sometimes wish for the experience for our top students, the philosophy of all-state vs. all-star honor choirs is an important distinction, which, I believe, contributes to Minnesota having such a great reputation across the country for outstanding choirs. So continue to encourage those students you feel have what it takes musically as well as the emotionally maturity to represent you, your program, and their school. We all know those things don’t always go hand in hand. Thus an important conversation to have with students and families who are selected is how they are going to conduct themselves “at camp.” Encourage the audition for those students truly ready for an Awesome choral experience.

Megan Dimich, Section Coach, and a few All State Singers
(Photo courtesy of MMEA)