West Linn High choir makes history
For the first time in the history of the OSAA Choir State Championship competition, the West Linn High School 6A Symphonic Choir tied for first with South Salem High School — a school that has won the state championship the last 14 years.
"It's pretty remarkable. ... We are very excited," said WLHS Choir Director Aubrey Patterson. "I am incredibly proud of the work ethic the kids have demonstrated this year."
The WLHS choir competed with 24 6A schools at the state championship May 1 at Oregon State University. The group performed five pieces from varying eras and cultures and opened with "Panda Chant II," a German sci-fi opera by Meredith Monk.
"I think our set was really weird and I say that in the best way possible," said senior Sydney Steinberg, symphonic choir president. "I think it made it fun to sing and it engaged us more, and it engaged the audience and the judges."
Also part of the competition was a sight-reading contest, where students demonstrated their ability to read music through certain rhythmic and melodic exercises.
Steinberg attributes the students' success with sight-reading to Patterson, who instructed the choir to read music almost every day in class.
"That has made us all way better musicians than (when) we first came in," Steinberg said. "Anyone can sing and anyone can learn a song, but being able to read the music on a page in front of you and able to perform it accurately in a minute is the actual measure of musicianship so we pride ourselves on being good at that."
Patterson, who has only directed the WLHS team for two years, previously taught choir at Corvallis High School. Under her reign, the 5A school won three state championships.
"I was excited to keep learning and growing, work with new kids and develop new bonds and inspire some new musicians," Patterson said about transferring to WLHS.
Senior Mack Castaneda, the bass section leader for the symphonic choir, said he attributes Patterson's leadership to the choir's success this year.
"Everyday she starts our class ready to create something amazing with us and inspire us to do better. Her determination rubbed off on us and we truly did succeed," Castaneda said. "Her knowledge on music theory and her persistence in creating a positive community for us is what really makes her amazing. Along with the music she chose for us, as it was unique and unlike any other set out there."
Patterson's goal this year was for the team to perform more pieces composed by women. Patterson also heard through a friend at West Salem High School that Patterson was only the fourth woman to win at the 6A level.
"It's a frustrating statistic but I'm happy to be part of a wave of change that's hopefully more representative of the genders we have in our field," Patterson said.
And while Patterson said she is proud and honored to have won state, she is even more proud to hear that students enjoyed performing. She said she encourages students to leave their musical hearts on stage and make themselves and the audience feel something. "(We) share our gift and let other people experience the joy we experience singing together," she said.
That's how Steinberg said she felt when performing.
"I just kind of got this zen feeling because we like to put a lot of focus on making the music we sing beautiful, not trying to be the very best so we can win the competition," Steinberg said. "So I got into that head space, which was nice because it allowed me to be in the moment during our performance and enjoy it."
Patterson said she is honored to share the first place title with South Salem High because of its incredible program.
"Everyone's supportive, sweet and kind," Patterson said. "It's been a great transition to 6A."
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