Wrangell sends two musicians to Honors Fest

Imagine performing in a band or choir but not being able to practice with the other performers on the stage. That's how students from Southeast high schools have to approach Honors Fest.

Each year, high schoolers from across the region audition for the event, and this year two students from Wrangell were scheduled to perform on Tuesday with 73 other musicians in Ketchikan.

The event was supposed to be held at Wrangell High School last year. Normally, about 120 students perform during Honors Fest (60 in choir and 60 in the band). It was canceled because of COVID-19 and was rescheduled for this year in Wrangell. Music teacher Tasha Morse said due to the smaller size of the school, it couldn't accommodate a large influx of people and keep everyone socially distanced, so it was moved to Ketchikan.

"We come together collectively, all the schools in Southeast, in Region 5, and we build the best band and best choir and some years the best orchestra that we can from auditions we've received from each school," Morse said. "Honors Fest is more of a collaborative effort to make music together, and there's really no competition aspect. The biggest part as far as competition is concerned is making an audition and being selected."

Since the size of Wrangell's band varies from year to year, part of the appeal of Honors Fest is having more musicians to play with.

"Our band is really small and there's not much diversity with the instruments, so it's so much fun to have all the different instruments and really full sound," said junior Paige Baggen, who plays clarinet and traveled to Ketchikan.

Freshman Ander Edens, who was set to sing first bass in the Honors Fest choir, said he enjoys performing with other students who "share the same values" and are on the same wavelength.

Edens normally plays saxophone but decided to sing this year. "In my family, there's more of a history of singing than band instrument playing," he said. "It's more of a nod to the past."

Morse worked with both students to help them learn and hone their parts before the Ketchikan performance.

"We've been meeting after school two or three times a week singing and playing and listening to recordings," she said. "It's hard being the only person singing in the choir and only having one person playing in the band because you can't have a normal rehearsal."

Morse said there would typically be three or four kids and rehearsals would be "standard." Recordings help to fill the void. "I think they're doing great being faced with all that."

There are eight students enrolled in Wrangell's band class this year, up one from last year. "We don't have any seniors this year, so it's a building year," she said. "That's the struggle of being in a small school. It ebbs and flows. There are years that I've had bands of 22 kids, and then there's years that I've had bands of five. You take what you can get and you just build the best band with what you have."

Even though there were far less music students at Honors Fest this year, it was still bigger than what Baggen and Edens are used to playing with.

"It's still five times bigger than our band," Baggen said.


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