Music to their ears.
Students and faculty of Chester High School's Music Department were singing the praises of their work at the IHSA State Solo and Ensemble Contest in Nashville, Illinois his past weekend.
A total of 60 YellowJacket musicians competed in 97 different solo and ensemble performances, earning the school 56 Superior, 39 Excellent and 2 Good ratings overall.
In addition, Chester High School finished the competition on top of its class in the overall IHSA Music Sweepstakes standings as it readies for the next stage of competition in April.
"We had many students prepare and perform solos and ensembles at contest that had never been done before. This forced those students to do something that was, perhaps, way outside of their comfort zone," said Chester High School Music Director Steve Colonel.
Each soloist and ensemble performed a prepared song in front of a judge. Judges rate each performance on eight different categories including tone quality, intonation, rhythm, technique, interpretation/musicianship, diction-bowing-articulation, performance factors and the performance (from memory) of numerous scales.
Judges' ratings are calculated and points are assigned to the performance in the eight categories. A maximum of 40 points is possible for what is deemed a "perfect" performance.
A Division I or "Superior" rating requires 36-40 points. A Division II or "Excellent" rating requires 28-35.9 points. A Division III or "Good" rating requires 20-27.9 points. A Division IV or "Fair" rating requires 12-19.9 points. Finally, a Division V or "Poor" rating requires 8-11.9 points.
Many of the students competed in more than one solo or ensemble to earn Chester's total of 97 performance ratings. Chester entered 44 instrumental performances, 51 vocal performances and two piano performances. Chester High School does not have an orchestra.
Students who earned a Division I "Superior" rating for an Instrumental Solo included Alison Venus, orchestra bells; Caitlin Elsea, Alto Sax; Chett Andrews, tuba; Destiny Williams, flute; Garrett Welker, trombone; Gwen Sterrett, flute; Jessica Handel, flute; Malary Vasquez, orchestra bells; Mitchell Colonel, trumpet; Montana Rose, flute; and Nate Rains, piano.
Division II "Excellent" ratings for solo instrumental performances were earned by Abby Myers, trombone; Ariel Throop, alto sax; Bailey Wahl, clarinet; Chloe Shook, flute; Chris Schwier, alto sax; Dayton James, trombone; Grace Stec, clarinet; Jaci South, piano; Jacob Wingerter, alto sax; Jadi Richards, bass clarinet; Karson Colvis; Katie Shinabargar, alto sax; Kylie Liefer, oboe; Lance Bohnert, trumpet; Lily Koch, alto sax; Matt Renfroe, tuba; Melody Colonel, alto sax; Tyler Holm, trombone; Lydia Heck, clarinet; and Vanessa Inman, clarinet.
Chester entered a total of 11 instrumental ensembles. Of those, eight earned Division I "Superior" ratings and three earned Division II "Excellent" ratings.
Superior ratings included Montana Rose and Gwen Sterrett for their flute performance of "Menuett" (Haydn/Barge) Book 1; Destiny Williams and Jessica Handel for their flute duet of "Fugato (Stamitz) Book 1; Caitlin Elsea, Jacob Wingerter and Melody Colonel for their trio alto saxophone performance of "The Kings Pipes"; and Garrett Welker and Tyler Holm for their duet trombone performance of "Duett III (Dietter) Book 1.
Other Superior instrumental ensemble performances included the trumpet trio performance of "Tandem Trio" by Mitchell Colonel, Lance Bohnert and Zach Zappa; Melody Colonel and Lydia Heck for their mixed wood wind performance; and Caitlin Elsea and Vanessa Inman for their mixed wood wind performance.
The last "Superior" rating was by the 12-person brass choir of Mitchell Colonel, Zach Zappa, Lance Bohnert, Jakob Cushman, Nate Rains, Blake Zappa, Abby Myers, Dayton James, Garrett Welker, Tyler Holm, Chett Andrews, and Cody Wahl. This ensemble performed "Sourwood Mountain".
There were three instrumental ensembles that earned Division II "Excellent" ratings. Abby Myers and Dayton James performed "Duett III" (Dietter) Book 1; Ariel Throop and Katie Shinabargar performed a saxophone duet titled, "Fugato" (Stamitz) Book 1; and Chloe Page-Keim and Zoe Carnahan also performed a saxophone duet "Fugato" (Stamitz) Book 1.
There were 22 CHS vocal students who earned Division I "Superior" ratings including Andy Bryant, Blake Zappa, Bria Shipley, Brooke Frazer, Caitlin Elsea, Destiny Williams, Elyzabeth Mitchell, Garrett Welker, Jacob Hoffman, Jacob Wingerter, Jessica Gross, Kayla Simcock, Kylie Liefer, Lance Bohnert, Lydia Hecht, Makayliah Gladney, Malary Vasquez, Melody Colonel, Mitchell Colonel, Montana Rose, Ronin Doiron, and Zach Zappa.
Eleven students earned Division II "Excellent" ratings for their vocal solos including Alison Venus, Ariel Throop, Ashley Hennrich, Chloe Page-Keim, Ciontae Monroe, Emma Naeger, Faye Hathaway, Gwen Sterrett, Lily Koch, Katie Shinabargar, and Hanna Bert. Finally, Jaci South and Melissa Crosby earned Division III "Good" ratings for their vocal solos.
The Chester High School Music Department also entered 16 vocal ensembles into competition. Of those 16 ensembles 12 earned Division I "Superior" ratings while four earned Division II "Excellent" ratings.
"Superior" ratings included Alison Venus and Malary Vasquez, "I Feel the Spirit"; Kayla Simcock and Montana Rose, "I Feel the Spirit"; Montana Rose and Mitchell Colonel, "Memory"; Hanna Bert, Ashley Hennrich, and Emma Naeger, "What a Wonderful World"; and Brooke Frazer and Caitlin Elsea, "All Night, All Day".
More "Superior" ensemble performances include Mitchell Colonel and Garrett Welker, "All Night, All Day"; Kylie Liefer and Gwen Sterrett, "In His Eyes"; Kylie Liefer and Jacob Hoffman, "Amazing Grace"; Melody Colonel, Lily Koch and Ariel Throop, "Sabbath Prayer"; Lydia Heck and Katie Shinabargar, "All Day, All Night"; Katie Shinabargar and Blake Zappa, "I Feel the Spirit"; and Andy Bryant and Makayliah Gladney, "Amazing Grace".
There were also four "Excellent" ratings for vocal ensembles including, Jaci South and Garrett Welker, "All Night, All Day"; Kayla Simcock and Lance Bohnert, "All Night, All Day"; Melody Colonel and Jacob Wingerter, "Amazing Grace"; and Zach Zappa and Jacob Hoffman, "All Night, All Day".
Following the competition, Colonel Chester High School earned a total of 408 points at the contest. which put the school at the top of the Class C in the The IHSA Music Sweepstakes Competition, 85 points higher than the closest school in its division.
"We finished in first place in the vocal division with 204 points and in second place in the instrumental Division with another 204 points," Colonel said. "The only division in which we couldn't compete was the orchestra division because our school does not have an orchestra."
Chester High School will return to Nashville to finish the task of becoming the first entity at CHS to win a State Championship. In 2015-2016, Chester won the third place Award for Class C. Last year, CHS was edged out of the top three positions by just a few points, but the YellowJackets still finished in fourth place.
Colonel will take four large ensembles to the 2018 IHSA Organizational Contest including Concert Band, Jazz Choir (Swing Choir/Sound Affect), Mixed Choir (Concert Choir) and Jazz Band.
"At the beginning of the year we set four goals: 1. Finish in the top three for band at the solo and ensemble competition; 2. Become four-time State Champions for chorus at the solo and ensemble contest; 3. Earn Division I "Superior" ratings for all four of our performances at the Organizational Contest this spring; and 4. Win an overall State Championship in Class C IHSA Music Sweepstakes Competition," Colonel said. "This weekend we accomplished the first two of those goals. Now we have every intention of accomplishing the last two in April."