De Soto students to blend voices in state choir
In what looked like a scene from the school year, Jenna Hodges and Trish Roberts practiced singing a piece of music Tuesday in the De Soto High School vocal music room as Mary Etta Copeland accompanied them on piano and offered advice.
The two teens will join Copeland Thursday and Friday in Topeka at the Kansas Choir Directors Association's state convention. Hodges and Roberts have been selected to association's women's choir. They will take part in all-day rehearsals Thursday and much of Friday before performing at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, 701 SW Eighth Ave.
De Soto High School vocal music instructor Copeland can be excused for taking extra pride in Hodges selection to the choir. The girl, who will be a junior this coming year, is her granddaughter. But aside from passing along talent and helping nurture a passion for music that relationship had nothing to do with Hodges' selection.
Students auditioned for the choir by sending in CDs of them singing "Hallelujah" a cappella.
"It allowed them to hear if they were in tune, their range, what their voices sound like and if they were singing the right note," Copeland said. "We had 10 girls audition. We made a lot of tapes."
Copeland said she wasn't surprised the two girls were among the 80 students chosen for the choir. They are among the school's musical elite, she said.
"Both these girls are outstanding instrumentalists too," Copeland said. "They kind of go beyond just sitting in chairs."
As a junior last year, Roberts performed in the state regional in piano and saxophone, while Hodges earned a 1 ranking at state in clarinet and was a soloist at the state vocal regional.
With their selection, Hodges will sing alto and Roberts second soprano in the women's choir. They will perform five songs and then join the Kansas City Chorale for another song.
"They will be performing with some real professions," Copeland said. "And Grace Cathedral is such a great place to perform. It has such a wonderful sound."
Hodges and Roberts got their song lists on the last day of school in May, soon after they were informed they had been named to the choir. It presented them with a challenge as the women's choir list included a song in Latin, Spanish and Hungarian and the song it will perform with the Kansas City Chorale is in Hebrew.
"They are really doing a wide range of multi-cultural music," Copeland said.
The secret to learning a song in a language you don't speak is to learn around the vowel sounds, Hodges said. But not knowing the meaning can also hurt a performance, she said.
"If you don't know the translation, it's hard putting in the emotion of the song in," she said.
It will be the second-consecutive year Hodges was chosen for the women's choir. As such, she knows what she and Roberts are in for in Topeka under choir director Hillary Apfelstadt of Ohio State University.
"It's very intense," she said. "All-day rehearsals wear you out. You're really tired after the performance, but it's really rewarding afterwards.
"It's really good experience because of all the people you get to meet and you would never get the chance to sing with."