All-State Music Festival Cancelled

7 musicians from Pella High made All-State.

7 musicians from Pella High made All-State.

All the fall sports at Pella High School were able to participate in state competitions this year; however, the music state competition was called off.  Seven students from Pella High made it to All-State: Luci Laidlaw, Julia Smart, and McCaffery Brandt made orchestra; Dora Roorda, Erin Mathes, and Morgan Uitermarkt made band; and Mason Holland made chorus.  The All-State Music Festival usually takes place in Ames over the course of a Thursday through Saturday, where hundreds of the best high school musicians from all over Iowa come together to participate in a massive orchestra and chorus.  The festival this year would have been from November 19-21; however, it was cancelled due to COVID-19.  

“When I found out that the festival was cancelled, I can’t say I was surprised because I saw it coming,” said vocalist senior Mason Holland, “but I was still disappointed to find out I wouldn’t get to perform the music I worked so hard to learn.”  

The musicians all worked hard on their pieces and excerpts for the audition, but since 2020 has been an uncertain time, many students like Holland knew that things would be different even if the festival happened this year.  

Something was already different about the All-State process this year: the auditions were virtual.  

“Typically,” said violinist junior Luci Laidlaw, “students will go to their assigned audition center and will perform for a judge who is sitting behind a curtain and cannot see them. After all of the auditions are complete, the judge will post the recall list, and some students will have to perform again before the final list is released.”  

This year, musicians submitted videos of themselves.  Wind players recorded two etudes, a solo, and scales; string players recorded scales, five excerpts, and a one-minute solo; and vocalists recorded excerpts alone (this was different because usually they audition in a quartet).  The audition requirements were released in July, so many students had been working on the pieces for several months.  Practicing intensely during the summer may not sound fun, but each of the musicians had a reason for auditioning.  

“I decided to audition for All-State again this year because the All-State Music Festival was and will always be one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” said Laidlaw.  “I can hardly even put into words how incredible it was to perform with so many talented musicians.” This was the second year that she made All-State. 

Holland also auditioned last year, but although he was recalled, he did not make the cut, so this year he decided to audition because he thought he would have a better chance.  

Trombonist sophomore Morgan Uitermarkt auditioned because her directors encouraged her, and she thought it would be a great experience to work through the music and prepare for an audition. 

“Even if I wouldn’t have made it, I am so glad that I auditioned, because I experienced so much growth in my playing,” Uitemarkt said. 

The musicians all worked hard, and after submitting their audition videos in October, they awaited the results.   

“I felt amazing when I found out that I had made All-State,” said Uitermarkt. “It was really rewarding to find out that all of my hard work was recognized.”  

Holland said he was shocked when he made it, especially since no other choir members from Pella made it. 

“That made me feel especially honored and excited,” he said.  

Laidlaw and violist senior Julia Smart were equally excited.  “We were talking about how excited and nervous we were for the results to come out as we sat there refreshing our emails every ten seconds,” said Laidlaw. “Eventually, my director called Julia and me to tell us that we had been accepted, and we celebrated with each other over the phone.”  

It is a great honor to be admitted into the All-State music festival, but these musicians don’t enjoy making music just for the honor.  

“While I absolutely love playing [trombone],” said Uitermarkt, “my favorite part of band is making amazing music with amazing people. I have made so many friends that I never would have gotten to know if it weren’t for band, and I am so thankful for all of the people in the band, and our incredible directors.” 

Similarly, Laidlaw said, “My favorite thing about being part of an orchestra is being able to come together with so many other people who share your passion to create something beautiful. It’s something truly special that I hope everyone is able to experience at some point in their lives.”   

Playing an instrument offers a personal reward: the satisfaction of improving after working hard, and the joy of creating music with other musicians.  The main purpose of the All-State Music Festival is to give students the opportunity to enjoy playing together with many other talented musicians, and so even though many knew that it probably would be cancelled, it was still sad to hear the news. 

“Hopefully next year everything will be back to normal and the festival can proceed as usual,” said Laidlaw.