Ketchikan High School's Robert Cope-Powell wasn't expecting to audition for the National Association for Music Education's all-national choir this past spring.
But the COVID-19 pandemic presented an unexpected opportunity for the Kayhi senior.
Speaking to the Daily News in a recent phone interview, Cope-Powell explained that during the all-nationals choir audition period in March, he was spending spring break in Spokane, Washington, as a participant in the NAfMe All Northwest choir.
However, the program was canceled due to COVID-19, which was beginning to spread in the United States, sending students back home.
"We got flown back here and I was extremely bummed," said Cope-Powell. "But then I figured out that all-nationals — since COVID had become such a rampant thing — they had extended their auditions for two weeks. And I jumped on it.
Kayhi did not reopen for in-person learning after spring break during this past school year, and Cope-Powell used the time to submit his virtual audition to the NAfME all-nationals audition board in March — " which feels like a very long time (ago)," Cope-Powell said.
Cope-Powell, who also is a member of the Southeast Honor Choir, explained that all ensembles have different criteria for auditions, and the students are judged according to different metrics set by that particular organization.
"Usually, a board decides on what they want to see the students do," Cope-Powell noted. "Like, do they want (the student) to sing a specific piece or do they want them to sing general (pieces), like 'The Star-Spangled Banner' and some scales of music?"
For the all-national choir auditions, "I had to sing some basic scales, and then I had to sing a piece," Cope-Powell said. "I don't remember what the piece was called, but it was an old English type of piece."
He sent the audition to NAfME and then waited for a response that came months later, in July, in the form of an acceptance notice.
"To be honest, I was ecstatic," Cope-Powell said.
Of about 260 students from the U.S. and Europe, Cope-Powell is the only Southeast Alaska student to be accepted into the all-national choir ensemble this year.
He also is one of two Alaska students, with the other student representing Soldotna High School.
To prepare for his part in the program, Cope-Powell has attended several webinars with the program's directors and guest presenters.
"We're going to be doing one big video performance with everyone edited in there," he described.
Each individual on the choir has to submit their piece for the performance by Friday.
"So I'm going to record my part, which is bass one, then I am going to probably record it again and again until I get it good enough that I'm satisfied with it," Cope-Powell said.
Preparing for the program is time-intensive, especially during his senior year.
"It's a constant thing I have to worry about," he said. "Because I'm a senior and I'm currently worried about colleges and I'm also doing music stuff for colleges, so I have to juggle that in between all-nationals while practicing."
As for college, Cope-Powell is considering attending Pacific Lutheran University in the fall.
The all-national choir performance will be available for participants to view in mid-February.
According to NAfME information provided by Cope-Powell, the "final All-National Honor Ensembles production ... will premier in March to kickoff the 36th annual NAfME 'Music In Our Schools Month.'"