This May, both Franklin High School’s band and choir made it to the state championship competitions. This was the first time in Franklin’s history that either a choir or band has competed at the state competition.
The Franklin choir, directed by Karen Bohart, performed at the State Championships for choir on May 7, 2022. In order to qualify for the state competition, the choir attended multiple state qualifying festivals in February and March. At the festivals, each choir in attendance was scored against a rubric designed by the American Choral Directors Association. In order to qualify for state, choirs must receive an 81/100 or higher by two out of the three judges. The only exception to the rules of qualifying is the league champion, who is an automatic qualifier. This year the league champion was Grant High School’s choir. For the choirs that receive a score of 81 or higher in a state-qualifying festival, a video recording of the performance is then reviewed and ranked by a music educator from out of state. According to Bohart, this year only 25 out of 60 schools qualified with an 81 or higher but only the top 24 got to go to state.
On May 7, after leaving at six in the morning for Corvallis, Franklin’s choir performed a prepared piece and then a sight-reading piece, a portion of the competition where a piece of music is given to the choir to be performed with no previous knowledge of what it was. “It was a great day and they performed very well,” said Bohart. “There are 24 choirs that sing at the 6A [level] and [we] ranked right in the middle.”
Solo performers from Franklin also qualified for state this year alongside the main choir. Maia Kleinberg qualified as a soprano voice and Vetiver Long as a bass voice. Long, who went into state as an alternate after placing second in the district competition, said, “I was really glad I got to go. Especially since I had gone to state last year online as the district [champion] but didn’t really get the full experience.” Long continued by saying, “Singing my songs in a small classroom in front of a couple [of] judges and friends I had made in the choir scene was a super friendly environment and I had no problem placing second by a few points to a friend in the bass section.”
Two years ago the Franklin choir was on its way to qualifying for state but due to the COVID-19 pandemic they weren’t able to sing in person. “Choir is all about hearing all the voices with your own voice and that wasn’t possible online,” said Bohart. “Coming back from that and finally being in person and being able to get back to that level of performance in such a short time was really magnificent on [the students’] part.” Bohart emphasized how much she is building up the program from ground zero as she explained that almost none of the feeder middle schools for Franklin have a choir program. This means that Franklin’s choir talent isn’t getting any training before high school. “I’ve just not had any numbers coming in here at all. So it’s been more like pulling from the hallways,” said Bohart. “And so to get here after COVID, and to get this choir to this level has just been magnificent.” With the possibility of more feeder schools developing a choir program Bohart hopes to build a strong tradition of choral music-making at Franklin.
A week after the Franklin choir performed at state, the Franklin band followed suit. On May 14 the Franklin band, directed by Jason Owens, traveled to the LaSells Stewart Center at Oregon State University to perform at the state competition for band and orchestra. In order to qualify for the state competition, bands must go to district or invitational festivals and score a 72 out of 100 on the main rubric, which is based on factors like quality of sound, musicality, and sound technique. Similar to the choir competition, they also have to complete a sight-reading portion. At a district festival, the top band automatically goes to state while the other bands that had a qualifying score but were not first in their district have a recording of their performance evaluated by judges. After reviewing the recordings, the judges invite the top 20 bands to the state championships, and this year Franklin was one of them.
Alongside the full wind ensemble, smaller sectional ensembles qualified for their state competition as well: a clarinet ensemble, saxophone ensemble, and two percussion ensembles, one from the wind ensemble and the other from the drumline. The state ensemble championships were held on April 29 at Mount Hood Community College.
This year’s state competitions were especially significant because it was the first year a choir or band from Franklin has competed at the state level. “The fact that we were part of the state band championships and represented Franklin High School is a huge accomplishment for us and I’m really proud about that,” said Owens. He also made sure to mention that this year there were three PIL schools in the state championships; besides Franklin, Cleveland and Grant High School also competed.
Both program directors give credit to their students in band and choir for making it to state this year. “I gotta give it up to the kids,” says Owens. “They’ve been coming in, in the mornings before school and doing sectional rehearsals.” Owens adds that he appreciates the work ethic in the band department and all the energy that is spent on the musicianship in the community.
“They are so hardworking. Super kind, friendly, [and] committed,” says Bohart. “They want to do the music justice and speak its truth. They’re committed to that and I love that.” When Bohart was asked if she was confident that Franklin can qualify for state again she said, “Every year. It’s a tradition. We just started it.”