SHHS choir second at state competition

Megan Sanderson

For the New Era

Sweet Home High School’s Symphonic Choir made history Friday, May 6, winning its first state trophy in school history with a second-place finish in the 4A state championships at George Fox University in Newberg.

Sweet Home finished with 274 points, second to Klamath Union, which dropped from the 5A to the 4A division this year after placing second in the larger-school division last year. Klamath Union scored 291 points Friday to win.

“We did it,” said senior Derek Jaques.

The 13 choirs competing at state performed at least 12 minutes worth of music on stage, which was scored out of 100 points by three judges. Off-stage, the choirs sight read several exercises of music with no preparation, which was scored up to 60 points. The number of points that a choir could receive was a total of 360 points.

“I’m incredibly proud of my student’s hard work,” said Matthew Clark, Sweet Home choir director. “It was very satisfying to see them rewarded for their hard work. To finish second to a school that competed and finished second in the 5A division last year is nothing to be ashamed of.”

The second-place finish came after Sweet Home earned seventh last year.

“I was very shocked,” said junior Kellie Pollock. “I’m so proud of our choir and second place at state is amazing.”

Clark said the choir’s success was a result of “comfortableness and confidence.

“The kids just felt more prepared,” he said. “We got better scores at qualifying festivals this year. We brought a couple of clinicians in. Last year the kids kind of got caught up in the moment, kind of like ‘Oh my gosh, we’re at state!’ This year they were much more comfortable.”

He said the choir’s trip to the Bay Area the weekend before state, where they competed in and won a music festival at the Great America amusement park, helped get them ready for state.

“When we got there Friday the kids seemed really loose, confident about being there,” he said.

Students said the choir worked hard this year to prepare for festivals and for state, working on rhythm exercises and sight reading, in which they scored much higher this year than at last year’s state competition.

“It was euphoric,” said Alex Howard. “I was proud and also surprised at how much we have improved from seventh to second in a year.”

Clark, who is in his fourth year at Sweet Home, said the win was “the high point of what we’ve done so far.

“They say it takes between three and five years to kind of build a program,” he said. “The seniors who are going out were freshmen when I got to Sweet Home. I’ve been their only high school choir teacher and we put all the work in from square one.”

The Symphonic Choir is losing some 20 seniors this year, “so we have to reload,” he said, noting that a record number of students have already signed up to audition for next year’s choir. Auditions started Monday and run for two weeks.

“It’s great timing for auditions,” he said. “The exposure and excitement about choir kind of is at a high right now.”

Though the obvious next step is to win it all, Clark cautioned that music competitions are judged subjectively and winning isn’t the real goal.

“The next goal is, honestly, to sustain,” he said. “Of course, it’s awesome to win. Music is so subjective, winning can’t be the main focus of what you do. Our goal is just to maintain the standard of musical excellence that we’ve been able to achieve this year and hopefully build on these successes.”

For the students, though, it was a thrill to take home a trophy.

“It feels great to have a physical representation of what we’ve accomplished this year,” said senior Taylar Rodgers, who has been one of the key sopranos for the past four years.

“This just shows how, if a program has a good director and willing students, what it can accomplish,” Jaques said.

– Staff writer Scott Swanson contributed to this story.