WLHS musicians compete at IHSMA

Ashley Smith · Wednesday, April 5, 2017
On Saturday, March 25, forty-five student musicians from West Liberty High School traveled to Central High School in Dewitt, IA to compete in the Iowa High School Music Association (IHSMA) Solo/Small Ensemble Festival.

Students chose events in which to compete, which are organized by ensemble type and size. This year, the West Liberty vocal department brought 12 vocal soloists, two women’s ensembles, a mixed quartet and a chamber choir to competition. Meanwhile, band students competed in 17 different solos, plus three duets, one trio, one quartet, a brass ensemble and clarinet choir.

Participation in IHSMA Solo/Small Ensemble Festival is voluntary, and students spend time outside regular band and choir class to learn and rehearse their pieces.

This year’s festival marks the largest participation from West Liberty High School in recent memory, according to directors Nathan Shivers and Ashley Smith. In the past four years, WLHS students’ involvement in IHSMA Solo/Small Ensemble festival has more than doubled.

This year’s competition, hosted by Central Dewitt, included nine different adjudication centers, each with its own schedule, judge and performance area.

Performances began at 8:00 am, and were scheduled throughout the day in five to seven minute increments. The schedule concluded around 4:30 pm, at which point each judge selected one performance from his or her center to earn the Outstanding Performance Award.

This year, West Liberty’s chamber choir, Vocal Harmony, was selected for the Outstanding Performance Award by one of the vocal music judges. The chamber choir received a perfect score on their state ballot.

“The Outstanding Performance Award is a designation of effort and accomplishment that far exceeds the demands made of an average Iowa high school musician,” wrote Alan Greiner, Executive Director of IHSMA, in a letter to award recipients.

“To be granted the Outstanding Performance Award. . . designates this particular performance as being truly exemplary to other high school students and music programs.”

The Outstanding Performance Award includes an invitation to perform at the Outstanding Performers’ Recital, held annually on the Iowa State University campus. Vocal Harmony will perform at this year’s recital, which will be held on Wednesday, May 10.

Every student at Solo/Small Ensemble received written feedback and a numerical score recorded on a state ballot. Judges scored each performance using this ballot, which is broken down into seven or eight performance factors, depending on ensemble type.

Each performance factor is scored separately, and factors include elements such as tone quality, pitch accuracy, rhythm, interpretation and musicianship, to name a few. Judges then total the performance factor scores and use a rating computational table to award each ballot with a Division rating from I (highest) through V (lowest).

Greiner explained on the festival website that a Division I rating denotes a superior performance that is “outstanding in nearly every detail.”

A Division II rating represents an excellent performance, which does not earn the highest rating due to minor defects in performance or interpretation, wrote Greiner.

A Division III rating is considered average and “shows accomplishment and promise, but is lacking in finesse, interpretation and the essential qualities necessary for the higher rating.”

Division IV and V ratings are considered fair and poor, respectively.

Between the West Liberty band and choir performances, 13 soloists earned a Division I rating, as well as Vocal Harmony, women’s ensemble, vocal quartet, marimba duet, saxophone quartet, brass ensemble and clarinet choir.

Six vocal and five band soloists earned a Division II rating, in addition to women’s ensemble, trombone duet, clarinet duet, and flute trio. Two soloists received Division III ratings.

The band and choirs will spend the month of April learning their final repertoire of the year in preparation for IHSMA Large Group Contest on May 5, 2017. The ensembles will present a preview concert on Monday, May 1 at 7:30 pm in the West Liberty High School auditorium.
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