Goshen County musicians participate in virtual all-state ensembles


GOSHEN COUNTY – Some of Goshen County’s most promising young musicians gathered in front of screens in the Torrington High School auditorium for a virtual all-state music performance on Feb. 15, a stark change from the typical cluster of a few hundred students from across the state gathered in one place. 

The Wyoming High School Activities Association (WHSAA) opted to hold the festival virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Students spent their day off working with clinicians in band and choir programs, learning new music 

Despite the physical separation between students, it was a social event. Sometimes, too social, according to Erin Jespersen, Lingle-Fort Laramie band and vocal teacher.

“It was a fun experience for (L-FL and THS students), because they got to interact with each other and socialize. They actually disabled the chat feature on Zoom, because all the kids across the state were chatting,” Jespersen said. 

Choir students performed three pieces led by the clinician and an accompanist. Jespersen said the musicians were muted due to the lag on Zoom. 

“It seemed to go really smoothly,” she said. 

Band students spread out into separate rooms so they could hear the instructors and their own sound, said THS Band Teacher Gary Glass. University of Wyoming Band Director Robert Belser worked with high school band members.

“He was able to anticipate what students would need to do and have questions about, he did a really masterful job,” Glass said.

Normally, the days-long festival culminates in choir, band and orchestra concerts. In COVID-19 times, rather than try to do so over a lagging Zoom program, educators will record students performing their pieces and send in the audio and video that will be professionally produced into a virtual ensemble for parents and families to see, said Katelyn Fody, choir teacher at THS.

“While we didn’t get the traditional all-state experience, it’s actually a really cool thing to be a part of, because they’re the first ones to have done it,” Fody said.

“Our kids, all of a sudden, are going to feel what it feels like to be a recording artist and how stressful that is,” Glass said. “When you play or sing and you make a mistake, it’s there forever unless you redo it until you get it, so it is a very unique experience. But these students will have the most interesting all-state experience of any students I’ve ever had.”

Goshen County was represented by 13 band and choir students from THS and L-FL, including Sera Glass, who was named outstanding senior for wind and percussion instruments. She and Eli Asa were honored as four-year all-state music participants.

Kai Fody, Eli Asa and Gage Gibson represented Lingle-Fort Laramie High School in the all-state choir. Torrington High School students Tyne Stokes (french horn), Trisha Cates (percussion), Matthew Vanatta (trumpet), Timothy Randoph (trumpet) and Sera Glass (trumpet) were selected to all-state band and Emanuel Bustamante, Bethany Wunibald, Soraya Moore, Tabitha Douglass, Aidyn Saucedo and Keaton Yung were selected as vocalists in the all-state choir.

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