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Indiana High senior makes national chorus

by on March 19, 2017 12:59 AM

Many students at Indiana Area High School are always going above and beyond, but last November, one musically inclined student was able to represent Indiana on a national level.

Scylla Humbert, a senior at Indiana, was selected to sing with the All-National Chorus at the Gaylord Texan Hotel and Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas.

“I’ve been singing since I’ve been able to,” Humbert said, “but I started taking it seriously in high school when I realized, ‘Hey, I really, really like this.’”

The audition process to be a part of the All-National choir is extremely selective. Students auditioned to earn their spots with local, district, regional and all-state ensembles last school year, and those who made it to all-state ensembles were given the opportunity to apply and audition for a spot in the 350-voice All-National Chorus, sponsored by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).

After competing at the district level, only the top 10 chairs advance to the regional competition. After that, only the top four chairs advance to the all-state ensemble. Once a student has made it to all-state, he or she can apply and audition to be accepted into the All-Eastern festival and the All-National Chorus. Humbert was accepted to both.

The national chorus was led by one of the most prominent choral conductors in the United States, Dr. Anton Armstrong, a professor at St. Olaf (Minn.) College. The chorus rehearsed for three days and then performed a free concert.

Humbert said the experience with the All-National Chorus was very surreal and rewarding.

“Being in rehearsal with that many people from all across the U.S. and just getting to work with people from all across the country was insane,” she said. “I really didn’t put it into perspective in the moment. I just kind of am looking back at it like, ‘Wow, I really did that.’”

Humbert also said that participating in large-scale festivals such as All-National inspires her to come back to Indiana with even more dedication than before.

“It inspires you to go back to your high school ensembles and be better and more engaged,” she said. “It changes the way you look at the things you took for granted before.”

Scott Salser, Humbert’s music teacher at Indiana, said students often return from these events with a stronger sense of purpose and belonging.

“It is so refreshing to them to be with a group of people who all think the same as them,” Salser said. “They’re all there for the same reason: to make the best music they can. We strive for that here at our school, but we know that there are kids who are there for different reasons.

“When you see someone who is as passionate about singing and music as Scylla is, and put that together with 350 other people who are just as passionate … that’s like this whole other world.”

Since participating in the All-National Chorus, Humbert has been selected to perform in the NAfME Eastern Division Mixed Choir April 5 to 8 in Atlantic City, N.J. The Eastern Division includes Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. There are also some students from Washington, D.C., and Europe. Timothy Seelig, renowned choral conductor from California, will conduct the choir.

Two orchestra students, senior Joanna Li and junior Brandon Wu, will also be attending the All-Eastern orchestra festival. Both students also worked their way through the local, regional, district and state competitions.

“I’m so excited to be a part of the All-East orchestra,” Li said. “It will be great to meet new people and share our love for music. I’m looking forward to learning and growing as a musician.”

Li is concertmaster for the Indiana orchestra, meaning she’s first chair violinist, next in line after the conductor. She also performs with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra. Wu was concertmaster at this year’s district orchestra festival.

“I am excited to go to All-East festival,” Wu said. “This is my first time there. I think it will be a great experience for me. I’m looking forward to it.”

Julianne Laird, orchestra instructor at Indiana, said Li and Wu are both “very high-level students.”

“It’s a very high level of achievement,” Laird said. “The music is very difficult and they get the very, very best kids on the East Coast.”

Salser said that Indiana has sent students to every one of the biannual All-Eastern festivals but one. However, Humbert is the first Indiana student to apply for and be accepted into the All-National Chorus.

“I think because I don’t really have to compete at this festival that I’ll be able to enjoy (All-Eastern) a lot more,” Humbert said. “It’s a privilege to be able to work with people from a bunch of different states.”

In addition to singing, Humbert has been playing cello for eight years and trombone for six years, so she is involved with the school’s choir, band and orchestra. She takes lessons from IUP faculty members for both voice and cello. She is also a member of the school’s a capella choir and madrigal singers, both under Salser’s direction. Humbert is playing Mother Abyss in the school’s spring musical, “The Sound of Music,” this weekend.

“Scylla is very much self-motivated, so I don’t have to work too hard at that,” Salser said. “She works a lot on her own and is very easygoing.”

An aspiring music educator, Humbert is planning to attend IUP or Seton Hill University to dual major in music performance and music education with a concentration in voice.

“I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to go into music, it’s just been kind of a thing that I’ve always known in the back of my head,” Humbert said. “Going to these festivals and events really solidifies that this is what I want to do and be a part of.”

Casey is a freelance writer for The Indiana Gazette. She is a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, studying journalism and public relations.
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