CHEYENNE – Each year, the National Association for Music Education works to organize an All-National Honor Ensemble of talented students across the United States. Cheyenne’s East High junior Jaelyn Burch and sophomore Connor Fertig were selected for this year’s Honors Choir.
NAfME is an organization that supports music education throughout the United States. The All-National Honors Ensemble works with musically gifted students across the United States to assemble a concert band, symphony orchestra, mixed choir, jazz ensemble, guitar ensemble and a modern band for the performance.
The 2019 National Honors Choir performed at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Fertig and Burch performed with the mixed choir.
East High music teacher LaDonna Backman explained she must be a member of NAfME in order to submit her students’ names to the organization.
“Any student in the 50 states that was selected for the local State Honor Choir is eligible to submit an application,” Backman said.
Burch and Fertig were both selected for the All-State Honors Choir last year, and before going to Orlando for the National Honor Choir concert, they auditioned for All-State Honors Choir for next year. Backman said she is always working to prepare her students for auditions.
“Everything we do in the class teaches them the skills that they need to be successful in any audition,” Backman said. “Whether that’s All-State, Nationals or Northwest Honor Choir, there are certain standard skills that a musician should have.”
Backman said she works with her students on how to treat diction and vowels in a song. She said Burch and Fertig have extremely high levels of musicianship.
“If you go to any choir, there are standard expectations that you would have learned in high school,” Backman said. “So, I would say that what we do every day in the classroom helps prepare students for auditions.”
Students who wish to perform with the National Honors Choir must submit a video audition. For the video audition, students must record themselves singing a programmed excerpt, scales to demonstrate range and a qualifying piece of their choice. For their programmed excerpt, students sang “Ae Fond Kiss” by Robert Burns.
“To prepare for the audition, we have certain excerpts and sight reading items to practice with,” Burch said. “I find it an honor to have been selected for something like that.”
Backman said she had four students turn in auditions for the Honors Choir last May. She said she made sure her students had the information they needed and helped whenever they needed it.
“I will help them,” Backman explained. “But they really do need to take the initiative to come in if they need help and make an appointment so we can get a good recording.”
For the National Honors Choir, NAfME chose five qualified students from each state. Backman explained they would be performing with the “best of the best,” during their time in Orlando.
Fertig said he also worked with his vocal instructor, Janet Weisbrook, a music teacher at South High.
“It’s a massive honor,” Fertig said. “I couldn’t have done it without Ms. Backman and my vocal teacher, Ms. Weisbrook.”