Kilgore choir students earn top ratings

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Kilgore High School students scored a bevy of top ratings at a University Interscholastic League competition Friday, February 1.

The Region 4 UIL Vocal Solo & Ensemble event was held at Marshall High School. Choir students from across the region competed individually and in groups, performing a wide range of vocal musical works.

10 KHS students earned a 1st Division “Superior” rating for their solo performances. As a result, they will advance to the next phase of competition: the State Solo & Ensemble Contest to be held June 1-3.

The students who earned a “Superior” rating for their solos were Madison Celley. Joshayla Conway, Joshua Flores, Lexus Harrington, Cameron Jackson, Alicia Jones, Shania Pierce, Kate-lyn Riley, Shelby Woods and Vanessa Zarazua.

These students earned the highest possible rating on Class 1 solos, the most challenging type of material a student can perform.

Two more students, Kendall Trevino and Milisha Wiley, received a 2nd Division “Excellent” rating on their solos and an ensemble of students scored a 2nd Division rating for their performance as well. The ensemble included Joshua Flores, Lexus Harrington, Brian Harter, Cameron Jackson, Kate-lyn Riley, Shelby Woods and Vanessa Zarazua.

Though a 2nd Division rating won’t send students on to state-level competition, the rating is difficult to earn.

“It’s a pretty big challenge,” said KHS and KMS Choir Director Phillip Nix. Even some underclassmen took on challenging pieces for competition, he added.

Students prepared for weeks to perform at the competition event.

“They started the first day we got back from Christmas on the 8th of January. They had about four weeks to prep it.”

Some students prepared vocal pieces in archaic forms of foreign languages, including French and Italian.

Their hard work paid off and the students’ excitement at the high ratings was palpable, Nix said.

“They were ecstatic. According to some of the other teachers here, they don’t remember this many students qualifying for state in a long time. It’s a really big boost, not only to the students’ confidence but to the program.”

Nix, who joined Kilgore faculty last August, said in December he’s leading the choir program through some big changes and trying to rebuild the program from the bottom up.

Kilgore choir students have another event to look forward to before competition in June.

“My students are going to be ‘cliniced’ by The King’s Singers, a world-renowned vocal a capella group,” Nix said. The famous group offers “master classes” in vocal performance as part of their Global Foundation, a program offering choral instruction to students, founded to mark the 50th anniversary of the group’s creation.

“They’re doing one in Shreveport on the 19th of February. As the first recipients of their Global Foundation, they’re doing this for free for us.”

Nix, who has been a fan of the group for years, once drove from Amarillo to Charleston, South Carolina to see them perform.

The program will give KHS students a chance to “learn from these world-renowned choral scholars. It’s sort of a once-in-a-lifetime event for these kids.”

Nix kept in touch with the group over the years and asked them if Kilgore students could participate in their Shreveport workshop and was thrilled when they agreed

“They have just now started this foundation to do this kind of thing. We were the first people where it lined up so they’re not charging us for the fee. I’m over the moon.”

He added many of his students aren’t familiar with the group and, as a result, aren’t quite as excited as he is. However, he said, that will change once they see the world-famous group perform live.

Kilgore students will also soon return to rigorous practice to prepare for another UIL competition in sight reading.

“We are currently prepping to go to the UIL sight reading competition in April for the first time for Kilgore since 2013. It’s been awhile for them and it’s about time we do that again.”

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