Two Summit County students make all-state choir, headed to Denver in February
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Kari Mattson and Malfalda Balzano didn’t think getting into all-state women’s choir was so hard.
Despite that, Summit High School vocal music teacher Cathie Hill assures them it’s an honor.
“This will be the best choir they’ll sing in,” she said. “It’s the cream of the crop from all the high schools in the state.”
Hill added that she hasn’t had a soprano I be accepted to the choir since 2002, though students in other voice parts have made it in years past. The girls were also accepted into the Western Slope Honor Choir, Hill said. Her vocal program currently has about 45 students.
“It’s very hard to get in as a soprano,” Hill said, explaining that it’s the most common voice part and there are a mere 75 slots statewide, some in the 120-member women’s choir and some in the 160-member mixed choir.
But what’s surprising about Mattson’s and Balzano’s achievement is neither of them are practiced vocalists.
Mattson, a senior and homeschool student, plans to go to college for violin and considers herself primarily a violinist. Having practiced the piano for seven years, she also comes to the high school to accompany the choir classes.
She said she’s always enjoyed singing but never practiced formally until just recently, when she entered a workshop at the Breckenridge Music Festival.
“She’s a phenomenal musician,” Hill said.
A junior and Italian exchange-student, Balzano comes into the choir from a completely different direction. She’s studied music theory for the past two years and though she’s sight-read her own vocal music and sung along with the radio, she’s never taken voice lessons. But in light of her recent accomplishment and with the natural trajectory of her music study, she does plan to move into studying voice.
“I never expected this,” Balzano said. “I want to make the most of the experience.”
Balzano and Mattson are working together on memorizing their music prior to the all-state event on Feb. 6-8. Once the girls get to Denver, the choir’s focus will be on polishing the pieces and their dynamics. They will perform in the rotunda area of the Capitol on Feb. 8 followed by a final performance later that evening at the Colorado Convention Center.
The girls spend class time together in the practice rooms – the same as Balzano did to prepare her audition for the choir. Mattson largely prepared on her own, Hill said.
Hill explained that the audition is a comprehensive, rigorous test of rhythmic and melodic sight reading, intervals, minor and major scales, triads and a solo.
The girls worked hard on the music theory aspects, because, “the things you can control, you have to control,” Hill said.
“You always have to practice,” Balzano added.
Hill shared the story of Balzano wanting to sing “Danny Boy” for her audition, but had difficulty enunciating the English through her Italian accent. So, her teacher suggested singing in Italian instead.
“She aced it,” Hill said with a chuckle. “She has the language, and of course her voice is beautiful. It’s funny that she wanted to sing in English and we all want to sing in Italian.”
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