Nebraska students expand knowledge with All-State Music

Nov. 20, 2023, midnight ·

All-State Jazz Band 2023
Students in the All-State Jazz Band rehearse one of their songs. All-State Music brings students from across Nebraska together to learn from each other. (Photo by Jolie Peal/Nebraska Public Media News).

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Hundreds of high school band, orchestra and choir students from across Nebraska came together last week to perform at All-State in Lincoln.

The musicians spend months preparing to audition for one of the four All-State ensembles, which include band, chorus, jazz band and orchestra. This year, almost 750 high school students made one of the four groups.

Daniel Iverson, the orchestra director at Lincoln North Star High School, said he loves the audition process because he gets to see his students learn.

“The All-State results are just a nice thing that happens at the end,” Iverson said. “But I'm so proud of all my students when I sit down and I record them because they always have put in so much hard work, and I can see all the work that they've done. I've seen how they've grown.”

He said he hopes All-State continues to grow every year so that more people can share in the musical excitement.

Isaiah Sebranek, a junior at Trinity Classical Academy in Waterloo, said this was his first year trying out for All-State Chorus.

“It was super fun to be able to make it because I've never actually been a part of a choir before,” Sebranek said. “I'm part of the choir this year. I have no idea what a choir is supposed to be like, so this is kind of new as well.”

Sebranek said he’s learned vocal techniques he didn’t know before coming to All-State, like how to best warm-up his voice and how to sing high notes quietly.

“It's really important because it challenges somebody like me, who is good at what they do but knows they can be better, to be among people who are better or as good as they are to see where those people are. Especially since I'm a junior, to watch the seniors go and do their thing. I want to be like them. I want to be as good as they are and trying to grow into that.”

Sebranek has been singing since he was four-years-old. He said he wants to keep learning how to improve his voice.

Katie Kleinschmit, the vocal music teacher at Crofton Community Schools, said that All-State challenges students to step outside what they usually perform.

“For them, it's very fun, especially since this is the biggest choir they'll ever sing in,” Kleinschmit said. “It's also the most difficult music and pushing some of those boundaries of their music knowledge, but also their musicianship in general, is definitely pushed in the music selections. We don’t sing a ton of foreign languages so singing French and German and Latin and all of those things, it’s good for them to have that experience as well because they wouldn’t necessarily get that in choir.”

All-State Music occurs at the same time as the conference for the Nebraska Music Educators Association. Kleinschmit said it’s nice to connect with other music teachers who share experiences and ideas.

“We're all just trying to stay above water, and it's okay to try things and things not work and it's okay to steal ideas and to to call upon friends to say ‘Hey, I need help with this,’” Kleinschmit said. “But also it feels good to share ‘Hey, I did this and this works really well,’ or just stealing and sharing ideas is huge on the professional side of things.”

Teachers and students were able to share more than ideas. All-State gave them the chance to share their love for music.

Grace Perkinson, a sophomore at Millard South who played the cello in the orchestra, said All-State has shown her that there’s a lot of students like her that have a passion for music.

“I think when you're on your own, just like out there, wherever you go to school and you're playing your instrument, it just, it feels kind of isolating, “ Perkinson said. “It feels like I don't know anyone else who likes this as much as I do or who wants to be here. When you go to Allstate and you see all these people, it's really encouraging, and you're like, ‘Oh, I could do that.’”

All four All-State ensembles performed this weekend at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. Perkinson said even though all the students didn’t know each other prior to All-State, they had a common understanding through the music they played.