Two Columbia High School students will be carrying a tune all the way to San Antonio next month.
Sophomore Alex Stroud and senior Daniel Maus have been selected to advance to the Texas Music Educators Association All-State concert as part of a group of the best choir students in Texas.
Maus is a bass and has been a member of the school choir for four years. This is the second time he has been chosen for participation in all-state. In addition to singing, he plays percussion and is planning to become a choir director himself.
“I am planning on going to get my bachelor’s degree in music education and come back and teach as a choir director,” he said.
Stroud, a tenor, is a first-time choice for all-state. He also plays low brass instruments, such as the tuba.
Both of the boys have been singing since they were young and both of them honed their chops as members of the First Baptist Church of Brazoria Choir, which is led by Maus’ mother.
There’s a difference in the formality between the church and school choirs, however.
“This is kind of a guided thing, because it’s an actual classroom. You’re actually learning stuff, whereas at the church, you’re doing that more for fun,” Stroud said.
The selection process for all-state begins with dividing the state into regions. Any student can audition at the regional level and they are given six pieces of music, having to perform four of them.
“You get to go into a small little room, just like this,” Stroud said, gesturing around a conference room in Columbia High School. “There’s a black curtain in front of you, so you can’t see who the judges are because they’re not allowed to know who you are — and it also helps with nerves.”
From behind that curtain, the auditioning student is given a cue from each of the pieces as accompaniment and they are judged, sight-unseen.
“After that, you do a sight-reading round where you have to get this little piece of music and you just flip it over,” Maus said. “Flip it over and it has, maybe, eight measures and you have to read it. You get 30 seconds to look at it, practice it and you have to sing it, just like that.”
The next level is Pre-Area, which is the top dozen students. These are whittled down to eight for the next round, Area. That’s where the competition comes down to four spots for all-state.
“We got one of the four spots‚— both of us. He’s the bass and I’m a tenor, so we didn’t compete against each other,” Stroud said.
Altogether, the choir will be just over 100 students from small schools across Texas and they’ll have a few days to come together as a group.
Now that they’ve been chosen, Maus said they’ve both received another packet of music, bringing the number of pieces they have learned to 11. Not only that, but they include Afrikaner, French and Swedish-language songs. Some are nearly 10 minutes in length.
“They have to have some stamina,” their Choir Director, Kathryn Robison, said.
This is while they’re learning their pieces for the school choir as well, including solo and ensemble works for competition. Thankfully, they began learning the first half of the all-state compositions way back in the middle of summer.
“We went to a choir camp in July. It’s an all-state choir camp where we get the music earlier than other kids that didn’t go to this choir camp and we work on it. We do a concert for the pieces and then we just go on with the rest of our lives,” Maus said.
They didn’t stop there, though. Almost every day, they’ve continued to work, even through school breaks.
Robison is proud of both of them and the effort they’ve put into reaching such a prestigious position, including a lot of their own time away from school.
The state provides some of the tools, such as recording equipment, that can help them, but it is the students that bring the commitment of time and work that allows those tools to do their job.
She leaves her door open whenever possible, trying to help them with extra practice after school or while she is eating her lunch.
Additionally, “We pray,” she said. “I mean that earnestly.”
“My favorite saying to them is, ‘Give everything your best. Give it all to God. Whatever happens, it’s okay to be disappointed if it’s not the outcome you want, but never be discouraged because everything is subjective that day,’” she said. “I just love watching them blossom and learn to believe in themselves.
Robison is in her sixth year as the Columbia choir director and these are her second and third students to participate in all-state.
“Three kids overall, but this will be the fourth trip with kids in the choir,” she said. “It’s pretty cool.”
All-state will be February 8-11 in San Antonio. Their performance will be held on final day at 12:30 p.m. in the Henry B. González Convention Center of San Antonio, 900 E. Market St..