Feb. 4, 2021
They may have different talents, but among them GHS Music Department students share at least one common trait: a passion for their craft that is fueled by an inspiring and skill-building music program.
This school year, many GHS students have been recognized by the Illinois Music Educators Association for their superior musicianship.
These accomplishments were announced in a joint statement by Band Director Mr. Patrick Frederick, Orchestra Director Ms. Krista Halvorson, and Band Director Mr. Neal Shipton: “The entire music faculty and administration at Geneva High School is extremely proud of all the students who both auditioned and were selected for these prestigious programs,” the statement said. “Their hard work, talent, and leadership have enriched the quality of our entire music program and serve as a positive example for all of our students. Bravo!”
ILMEA District Festival
Last October, several band and orchestra students from the Geneva High School Music Department competed to represent their school in the Illinois Music Educators Association District Festival. This audition process involved hundreds of students from area high schools in ILMEA Dist. 9.
Of the GHS students who auditioned, 4 entries were ultimately selected to participate in the district festival. These students had the opportunity to attend a one-day virtual festival in November, working with guest conductors and clinicians from across the country:
- Matthew Styrna: Band Department, tuba in the ILMEA Festival Orchestra
- Sean Chalmers: Band Department, alto saxophone in the ILMEA District Jazz Combo
- Hannah Bolender: Orchestra Department, violin in the ILMEA Festival Orchestra
- Hannah Thill: Orchestra Department, viola in the ILMEA Festival Orchestra
Styrna, a senior, has played tuba for seven years. He enjoys the creative liberties he can take with his instrument, being the only tuba player in an ensemble. Styrna credits his teachers for challenging him to improve his craft: “They’re good at pushing you to further on your journey; you can always do better.”
Bolender, who has been playing violin since the first grade, said it was really exciting to be selected for the district festival, despite not knowing what to expect this year. Now a senior, she took advantage of a virtual master class on performance anxiety that really resonated with her, Bolender added.
For someone like Thill, who has been playing viola since fifth grade, getting into the festival was extremely validating. This is the second time this junior has qualified for the District festival, and she shared that this year’s virtual experience gave young musicians like herself the opportunity to learn about different aspects from music clinicians that they wouldn’t have in a typical situation. She was particularly interested in a clinician who spoke about melding technology and music. “It was rewarding to learn new things,” Thill explained.
ILMEA All-State Festival
Three of these students were selected as participants in the 2021 ILMEA ALL-STATE Festival. “Because of the current pandemic, plans for this year’s 3-day in-person festival are still being considered, and we will have to wait until we know how this event will ultimately take shape,” the music department expressed. “Nonetheless, we are extremely proud of these students’ accomplishments and for representing our GHS Music Department in such a positive manner.”
- Matthew Styrna: Band Department, tuba in the All-State Festival Orchestra
- Hannah Bolender: Band Department, violin in the All-State Festival Orchestra
- Hannah Thill: Orchestra Department, viola in the All-State Festival
Upon learning she had been selected for the All-State Festival, Bolender was surprised to have been selected for such a competitive recognition. “It was kind of a cherry on top for my senior year,” she said. “Even though this year it isn’t normal, it’s still a great honor,” she added.
Being selected for the All-State Festival is one more step in Thill’s journey to keep music an important part of her life. “Music has gotten me through some difficult times, and I want to continue that,” she said. “I’m looking into music education and teaching other students to love music as I do,” she said, adding: “I am so grateful for Ms. Halvorson’s impact on my music education this year! She has put so much time into ensuring that us students can have musical opportunities in this unprecedented year, and I always look forward to her class.”
ILMEA State Composition Contest
In addition to performance opportunities, ILMEA invites junior high and senior high school students from all areas of the state to submit their original compositions, arrangements, and remixes. This contest was created to celebrate Illinois students’ achievements in composition and to offer them high-quality feedback and guidance as they continue in composition. Original works were submitted by students from junior high schools and high schools throughout the state and were judged by a panel of active composers and professional musicians. Featuring 21 categories, this year’s contest brought almost 300 entries from Illinois student composers in the Junior/Senior General Music division of ILMEA.
Several GHS students submitted entries to the ILMEA Student Composition Contest, and the following three students whose works were selected for recognition:
- Nico Gonnella: “Be Easy” Remix, 3rd Place, Remix Contest Junior
- John Henderson: “Con Fuego” Honorable Mention, Instrumental Small Ensemble
- Steven Meyer: “Water on Wood,” 3rd Place, Instrumental Solo; “The Moirai,” 3rd Place, Instrumental Small Ensemble; “Take a Swing At It!” 2nd Place, Jazz Instrumental/Vocal; “Nature’s Changes,” 3rd Place, Vocal Ensemble
Gonnella beamed when discussing his winning remix, which he was quite surprised to have been recognized for. “I actually downloaded my software (for making electronic music) less than a year ago,” Gonella said. “It’s my first milestone in making electronic music,” he said, adding that he was inspired to enter the competition by former GHS graduates whom he knew had received recognition for their creative work. The junior is no stranger to music, however, as he has been playing percussion since fifth grade and drum set since even earlier.
A trained percussionist, Henderson is a sophomore who began experimenting with original composition in 7th grade. When he set about submitting a piece for this contest, it was mainly for the experience of receiving feedback from professional judges, he said. Receiving recognition for this work was, as he describes it, “Pure surprise.” Henderson’s submission is a drum cadence in the style of a military march, with a solo. He plans to take an independent study in composition with Mr. Shipton, where he hopes to begin composing tonal music. He praises his teachers for providing him with inspiration: “I would not be where I am today without their experience.” After high school, Henderson plans to double major in music education and percussion performance. “No matter what I do, I’ll always be doing something with music,” he added.
Four of the five pieces that Meyer submitted were recognized in this competition, which creatively reflect other inspirations in his life. His piece “The Moirai,” for example, is a three-part movement inspired by the Greek Myth about three fates. In this piece, each movement represents one of the fates. Another piece, “Water on Wood,” is perhaps his favorite. A solo featuring the marimba, “was an interesting because the concept for this piece is to represent different waters on the wood of the marimba in two movements – the first is a babbling brook and the second is the omnipotent ocean. A trained percussionist, Meyer also has played piano, saxophone and clarinet. “I hope to pursue a career in music education,” the junior said. “I had such a phenomenal experience with my teachers. Mr. Frederick and Mr. Shipton help us in any way they can, they inspire us. I hope to do that as well. I want to try to share what music has done in my life with other students.”