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4/16/2014
Music festival highlights talent, drive
Helena Wade, a ninth-grade student at Juneau-Douglas High School, warms up her flute during a clinic Friday in Ketchikan during the Southeast Alaska Music Festival. Staff photo by Hall Anderson


By MARJORIE CLARK

Daily News Staff Writer

Ketchikan High School hosted the annual Southeast Alaska Music Festival during the past week, welcoming 500 high school students from across the Southeast.

Band and choir members alike flooded into Ketchikan from Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Juneau, Klawock, Metlakatla, Sitka and Wrangell for three days to perform solos and group ensembles, as well as participate in a number of clinics.

During the three-day festival, the students performed selections for adjudication by four judges. The judges are selected due to their extensive credentials in music performance and education.

"We all met for the first time here, but there is instant camaraderie," adjudicator Richard Elliott said. "It's because we share a love of music and teaching. The kids here are the drive."

Elliott teaches clinics and serves as an adjudicator in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia and Alaska. He has received many awards through his career as a performer and teacher. He taught for 38 years in Newberg, Ore., and is the associate director of bands at George Fox University.

For Elliott, one of the aspects that struck him about the festival was the drive of the students.

"These students have such talent and desire to be here," Elliott said. "They take ferries and planes to get here. What these kids are doing is tremendous, and the experience they are getting is so important. They are just like sponges and want you to teach them more, and that is wonderful."

Each adjudicator taught a number of clinics and presented a variety of opportunities for students to interact with them.

Adjudicator Vince Gomez encouraged the students that wanted to teach music by offering a bit of advice.

"You have to love music and love kids," Gomez said. "It can't be only one."

Gomez began playing the violin at 5 years of age and is an emeritus faculty at Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif. He also taught at University of California Davis and multiple public school districts across California. Gomez has conducted a number of symphonies and orchestras across the United States and the Philippines.

Kayhi sophomore and alto Zybrelle Gage said she enjoyed her experience at the festival and was looking forward to their choir performance Friday evening. She enjoyed her first clinic, "Healthy singing for developing girls," and was looking forward to the next clinic, "Professional singing in the real world."

"I really enjoy singing, but that's not what I want to do (after school)," Gage said. "I just like it and want to improve."

The healthy singing clinic was taught by adjudicator Rebecca Rottsolk, who served as the artistic director for Northwest Girlchoir from 1982 until 2001. She is the co-founder and director of Mirinesse Women's Choir.

Erika Wiberg, a Kayhi soprano, said the clinic she attended, "Bringing out the best, Understanding success," was helpful in learning to calm pre-performance jitters.

"It was very beneficial because she taught a lot of mental therapy, like having conversations with yourself before singing or playing an instrument or taking a test," Wiberg said. "It was more like a life lesson, but she talked about doing it before performing."

Each choir group had an opportunity to practice their performance pieces in front of an adjudicator before the official performance. The judge was able to critique the performance and offer suggestions that could be integrated prior to official judging.

For the dress rehearsal, Kayhi practiced with adjudicator Mikkel Iverson, a teacher from Union High School in Camas, Wash. Iverson has taught music for 36 years in public schools and in higher education. He performs in many choirs across the Pacific Northwest, and serves as the chairman for the Washington Repertoire and Standards for Male Choirs.

Gage said the experience was nerve wracking.

"We practiced in the band room for a bit, and we were tense and kept messing up," Gage said, adding that once the choir moved into the auditorium to practice, "we did amazing."

Gage said she felt a bit nervous to perform in front of a large crowd that evening.

"Usually when we have a concert, there's a little crowd, but this time (the auditorium is) gonna be full."

Craig High School junior Grace Bolling said she also has enjoyed the festival at Kayhi.

"Most of my out-of-town friends are here, and my family is here," Bolling said. "I also amped it up. You come expecting amazing things, and you're often satisfied."

Bolling, who plays the French horn, said her favorite part of music festival are the performances at the end of each day.

"I love hearing the big towns, like Ketchikan, (Juneau-Douglas High School) and Sitka," Bolling said. "They usually have phenomenal pieces because they are big and there are a lot of kids that are just born to do music."