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Chelsea Student Musicians Accent the Positive

Courtesy photo. Brenna (left) and Lucia Taylor, double bass, All-State Middle School Orchestra

By Crystal Hayduk

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has paused most aspects of student life, Chelsea School District musicians refuse to be silenced.

The annual Michigan Music Conference, usually held each January in Grand Rapids, draws a crowd of thousands. The conference will be virtual and All-State performances have been canceled, but the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) still held pandemic-compliant auditions in October. Seven students in Grades 7, 8, 10, and 11 were selected for All-State recognition and four received honorable mention.

Phillip Sylvester, Chelsea High School (CHS) orchestra director, explained this year’s audition process. Unlike previous years when students traveled to Saline to audio record auditions which were forwarded to judges, students were given an audition link to video record the selections.

“They had one chance—no do-overs and no second tries. In that capacity, the audition was the same as usual. However, students may have been a bit more relaxed because they could record at school with just their teacher, or from the comfort of their own homes,” he said.

Courtesy photo. Luke Mourad, cello, All-State Middle School Orchestra

Auditions were held to maintain consistency and encourage students to audition again next fall for All-State concerts in 2022. “It is sad to say participation might have been lower this year because there was no actual [ensemble] to make it into,” said Sylvester.

Sylvester’s suspicions were confirmed by Charles Bullard, MSBOA president, who said 1,466 Michigan students auditioned this year, compared to 2,500 last year. About 370 students are on the 2021 All-State roster and nearly 100 on the Honorable Mention roster.

Beach Middle School (BMS)

The judges might have felt déjà vu when they saw the double bass audition videos of seventh graders Brenna and Lucia Taylor, twins who were selected for All-State Middle School String Orchestra (MSSO) honors.

Their private teacher, Jed Fritzemeier, encouraged them to audition because it’s good preparation for the future. The girls said they practiced a lot to prepare, but tried not to take it too seriously to avoid the panic that can derail an audition.

 Eighth graders John Milne (viola) and Luke Mourad (cello) were also named to the All-State MSSO. Mourad performed in the orchestra last year. He felt this year’s audition was “less stressful and more relaxed” at the high school with Nathan Peters, his middle school orchestra director, present. “It was worth auditioning even though it’s virtual this year because the music is fun,” said Mourad.  

Milne said he learned effort and hard work can result in success.

Courtesy photo. John Milne, viola, All-State Middle School Orchestra.

Students who received honorable mention are Samantha Bieber (Grade 7, violin), Sonja Schemahorn (Grade 8, violin), and Lauren Thompson (Grade 8, violin).

Peters is proud of the BMS students—those who were selected for honors and those who auditioned.

“The audition music was difficult and the students had to learn a new system of performing live for a computer, often wearing masks while playing. We are looking forward to January 2022 when we hope to have the All-State students playing music again in a concert in Grand Rapids,” he said.  

Chelsea High School (CHS) Band

Junior Clinton Nichols (trumpet) was selected for All-State Jazz Band. He performed with the All-State Concert Band last year, and said it was an amazing experience that he’s sorry to miss, although he’s still glad he auditioned.

This year, he pushed himself to try out for jazz band. “The skill set is different, so the audition is tailored for jazz,” he said. “I love music and am proud of my abilities.”

Alison Roberts, CHS band director, said, “Clinton is a fabulous musician and well-deserving of his nomination for the All-State Jazz finalists. I am so proud of his continued dedication to his instrument, especially during this challenging time for in-person music making.”

CHS Orchestra

Courtesy photo. Megan Hayduk, violin, All-State High School Orchestra

Sophomores gained the honors for the orchestra, with Peter Mourad and Megan Hayduk (both violinists who are also members of Chelsea House Orchestra) named to the All-State High School Orchestra.

This year marks Mourad’s third All-State award in a row, in addition to an honorable mention when he was in seventh grade. He said auditions are “always a little daunting,” but he likes to challenge himself musically.

Hayduk, who earned All-State status in eighth grade and called it “one of the best experiences in my musical career,” said auditions have been a regular part of improving her musicianship since seventh grade.

Courtesy photo. Peter Mourad, violin, All-State High School Orchestra.

“All-State is incredibly competitive, especially as an underclassman going up against upperclassmen,” said Hayduk. “I wanted to get in, but realistically, I didn’t expect to receive this honor. My sixth-grade violin student was absolutely certain I would get in. I learned how much of a positive impact it has on your performance to know someone believes without a doubt in your ability.”

Phoebe Harris (Grade 10, cello), a two-time previous All-Stater, earned honorable mention.

Sylvester said these young people are “committed and driven students who seek challenges on a daily basis. Practicing and auditioning these excerpts and scales are difficult enough as it is, but to accomplish what these students have as sophomores is truly exciting to see, because a large majority of the students that make it in are upperclassmen.”

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4 thoughts on “Chelsea Student Musicians Accent the Positive”

  1. Congratulations to the Chelsea Music Students and their outstanding teachers for helping them to achieve this honor!

  2. Great summary of the achievements of all the award winning students and those with honorable mention. I am particularly proud of the achievements of my two grandchildren, Peter and Luke Mourad (no bias here) because I know how hard they work. Well deserved guys! Congratulations!

  3. Congratulations to all the students for their achievement and their hard work also congratulations to their teacher’s and parents
    I am particularly proud as a grand mother of not only one but two of the students Peter and Luke Mourad

  4. Wow John! Congratulations! Can you tell me how to watch when you and the others are playing? Out here in dark, wet Washington, let me know the time of day (3 hours earlier on Pacific time) and what I should be looking at — TV channel? Zoom meeting? Best wishes to you!
    Uncle Dave
    And congratulations to all of you other young musicians there in Michigan! Keep up your studies, I hope I get to listen to you too, and above all, enjoy music!

    Uncle Dave

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