BHS choral program continues streak of success, prepares to send 17 students to audition for seats in 2018 All-State Choir

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The Bullard High School choral program has struck yet another resounding high note of success, this time after sending students to compete at the Region 21 Vocal Pre-Area Auditions, held Thursday, Nov. 16, at Hallsville High School.

A program record total of 17 singers from BHS will advance to the upcoming All-Area competition, making up over 50 percent of the entire number of singers advancing from Region 21, leaving the rest of the schools making up Region 21 with just 15 vacancies.

“We are both excited and grateful for this new level of success achieved by the BHS choral program,” said Kerry Baham, BHS choral director. “Region 21 sends a total of 32 students to the Area competition, and we were able to come home with a total of 17 seats in the choir. It was a great achievement for our program. Seeing our students work hard every day, I expected a number of them to make it, but being able to claim over half of the available seats was quite impressive.”

Out of the 17 BHS choir members advancing to the All-Area choir competition, a total of six singers will do so as first chair singers, as the BHS choir claimed 75 percent of the choir’s available first chair spots.

BHS singers taking home the recognition as first chair singers in the choir include freshman Grace Nish (Soprano 1), sophomore Haley Brems (Alto 1), junior Hannah Stewart (Alto 2), senior Lawrence De Vera (Tenor 2), junior Joshua Luper (Bass 1), and sophomore Isaac Sanders (Bass 2).

Additionally, the BHS choir will send a total of 11 singers filling chairs ranging from second chair to fourth chair to represent the program in the All-Area round, including sophomore Bailey Bower (second chair - Soprano 1), junior Emily Dean (second chair - Alto 1), junior Patrick Granberry (second chair - Tenor 1), senior Dylan Price (second chair - Tenor 2), senior Will Brown (second chair - Bass 1), junior Kaitlin Woodard (third chair - Soprano 2), junior Clara Smith (third chair – Alto), senior Kailey Consford (fourth chair - Soprano 2), sophomore Hailey McCutcheon (fourth chair - Alto 2), freshman Darrin Nguyen (fourth chair - Tenor 1), and senior Austin Taylor (fourth chair - Bass 2).

Baham said once the results were announced at the Pre-Area round, excitement filled the air as BHS choir members learned of their successful ventures.

“I really just wanted to see who the 17 singers were that had made it,” said Baham. “We have intense competition between our own choir which has really helped to drive them more than anything and make them better singers. They understand that the majority of their competition stands beside them every single day.”

According to Baham, the hard work and dedication his singers have shown in fine tuning their craft of singing has helped the program reach its latest level of high achievement.

“As an instrumentalist myself, singing is one of the more difficult things to consistently do well because you’re more affected by your health when singing more than anything else,” said Baham. “I’ve done concerts as a pianist with 103-degree fever, something that is extremely difficult to do. Despite everything, these students have been eager to put in the extra work necessary to perform well. It’s even now to the point where I’ve had to turn them away sometimes because they want to come in for extra practices, but there are only so many hours in a day; it’s the best problem for a teacher to have. They’ve definitely put in the hard work, determination, and dedication to reach the level they’re currently at, and to continue farther down the road, which will hopefully end with a high number going to All-State.”

The BHS choral department began competing in singing competitions under Baham’s direction in the fall semester of the 2014-2015 school year. Since that time, the choir program has seen upticks in the number of students making the All-Region, All-Area, and All-State Choirs.

In its first year of competing in the 2014-2015 school year, the BHS choir sent five singers to the All-Region Choir, as well as two singers to the All-Area Choir and one to the All-State Choir.

The following year, BHS singers made up nine chairs in the All-Region Choir, as well as four seats in the All-Area Choir, with three singers advancing to sing in the All-State Choir.

During the 2016-2017 school year, the numbers of BHS choirs making up the three choirs increased again, with Bullard sending 17 students to the All-Region Choir, followed by nine students to All-Area and five singers to All-State.

The BHS choir, so far during the 2017-2018 school year, has watched the numbers increased four a fourth consecutive year, with a total of 28 singers making the cut for the All-Region Choir, as well as 17 students making the All-Area Choir.

“When we began competing in 2014, I wouldn’t have thought we would have four consecutive years of improving on the previous year,” said Baham. “This program has been able to experience a crescendo of growth and achievement, and is still moving in an upwards direction, which we hope to continue in the future.”

Baham said the program has experienced the recent success over the last four school years due to the students’ willingness to trust and listen to its leaders, whom have many years in competitive singing.

“Every year is completely different,” said Baham. “However, we are very hopeful that this trend will continue as we prepare these students to try out for the All-State Choir. These students have decided to listen to the direction of Mrs. Hamilton and myself; we told them that if they would listen, trust us, and do what we ask them to do, they will be successful. Mrs. Hamilton and I both have extensive competition experience in our background, as well as performance experience. Knowing we’ve done that, the kids have really trusted us and we’ve been able to have a high level of success.”

Now, the 17 members of the BHS choir who were named as All-Area choir members will travel to Waco Midway High School Saturday, Jan. 13 to compete in a crowded field from four regions around the state for the chance to be named to the 2018 All-State Choir.

“This last step is the last, but also the biggest, hurdle that they have to face,” said Baham. “All four Regions from across the state will send 32 singers each to compete for the All-State Choir seats, so they’ll be 128 singers representing Regions 8, 20, 21, and 26 competing for a total of 16 chairs, four chairs per voice part.”

According to Baham seats available to the seven Areas across Texas are based on the number of singers competing in the contest.

With a total of 17 members of the BHS choral program making their way to compete in the All-State Choir tryouts, Baham said he hopes the choir will be able to fill several spots in the top choir this year.

“I would hope we have a good chance to advance a number of our singers this year to the All-State Choir,” said Baham. “We have three of our five All-State singers back from last year in Bailey Bower, Haley Brems, and Joshua Luper. I told the kids although they made it last year, it doesn’t guarantee them for anything this year; you never know who is judging and what level of talent you’re going to face. One of the primary goals of the program is to set the kids up to succeed at the highest level, and for high school choirs in Texas, the All-State Choir is the pinnacle, as it’s considered across the nation to be the best state All-State music program. We’ve been fortunate enough to have members of the Bullard choir be named to the All-State Choir in the past three years, so we’ve built up a little streak, which has helped us gain name recognition and allowed our program to flourish.”

In the 2016-2017 school year, the BHS choral program tied the state record in the small school All-State Choir with a total of five singers named as All-State Choir members.

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