Byron High School musicians Alaina Haas, Kaci McKnight, Sophie Tucker, Isaac Mondello, Maison Brandt and Denise Braithwaite (shown in other photo) were selected to participate in the 2022 Illinois Music Education Association’s All-State Festival.

Six Byron music students were selected to participate in the 2022 Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA) All-State Festival.

ILMEA sponsors District and All-State competitions for the State of Illinois. Illinois is divided into nine districts. Byron is located in District 8, which includes the Western edge of the North-West Chicago suburbs, to the Mississippi River, and from the Wisconsin border down to I-88. The festival was held in Peoria, on Jan. 26-29, 2022.

The process begins when students prepare an audition for the District Festival. Students in band prepare an etude, scales, and they will sight read at the audition. Students in choir prepare 2 pieces of music and also have to perform scales and sight singing at the audition.

The students audition for a judge, by themselves, and are scored out of 100 points. From these scores the ensemble is selected.

Top scores from each section are selected for the District ensembles, approximately 2000 students audition for the district band, orchestra, and choir ensembles.

This year’s process looked a bit different. The student’s audition was in virtual format. The students prepared their material and had to video record themselves playing it and then submit it to the District to be judged.

Students worked hard and did this preparation. In November they attended the District Festival at DeKalb High School. The ensembles were directed by college directors. They all were so happy to have the event in person this year.

After the District Festival the student scores are then looked at again. In band and orchestra top players are chosen from each instrument. Once the band top scores are chosen then they had to prepare a second audition, virtually, and submit it to the State platform. Through that audition they were chosen to be placed in the All-State Band or the Honors All-State Band. In choir the top 8 scores from each voice part are chosen to attend the All-State festival. The highest four scores are placed in the Honors All State ensemble and the next four scores are placed in the All-State ensemble. The All-State music experience is unlike any other musical experience these students will have.

Top musicians from across Illinois come together and prepare a concert of challenging music in less than three days. It will be an experience these kids will never forget.

This year Byron also had a student be selected to the Composition Track. This student wrote a composition for the Chamber Choir and it was recorded and submitted for the State contest. It won honorable mention and she was allowed to take part in composition workshops through her time at State.

The six Byron musicians who qualified for the All-State Ensembles this year are:

Denise Braithwaite is a sophomore who is in Chamber Choir. Her parents are Amanda and John Braithwaite. Denise made it to All State in the Composition Track. She spent time during the pandemic writing a choral piece for the Chamber Choir called “Clear Skies”. Denise’s future plans are to become a robotics engineer and to continue to compose music. She has been involved in volleyball, scholastic bowl, math team, theater, and choir while at Byron High School. Denise was selected to All State in both the All State Choir and the Composition Track, but she had to decide on one program and she chose the Composition Track. Denise’s thoughts on making All-State Composition: “It was something in the back of my mind, but I never expected to make it. It’s incredible.” Her favorite memory from choir is when the Chamber Choir performed the song that she composed at the fall concert.

Maison Brandt is a sophomore who was selected to the Honors All State ensemble as a Bass 2. Maison is in Band, Chamber Choir, Golf, Basketball, and Illinois Music Honor Society.

His parents are Ann and Jacob Brandt. He future plans include many interests, including meteorologist, business, college golf, and music artist.

Maison’s thoughts on making Honors All-State “I think it is a really big accomplishment. I’m very excited to sing with a wonderful group of choir students, and I’m very happy to be a part of it!” Maison’s favorite choir memory is the St. Louis Choir trip in 2019. His favorite memory from band is marching at the football games.

Alaina Haas is a junior who is in Concert and Symphonic Band. Alaina’s parents are Nate and Natalie Haas. Alaina is a two-time All-Stater and was selected again on the French horn. She plans to go to college to study elementary education.

Alaina has been involved Cross Country, Speech, Band, and is a member of the Illinois Music Honor Society. Her thoughts on making All-State a second time are: “I was very excited and proud of the hard work I put in. I was also hopeful that we would get to have it in person because we didn’t get to last year.”

Alaina’s favorite memory is being drum major this year and having the spring concert last year after not getting to have in person concerts.

Kaci McKnight is a senior at Byron High School. She is involved in Sympohnic Band, Concert Band and Chamber Choir. Kaci is a two-time member of All-State. Last year she was and Alto 1 in the All-State Choir, this year she made the Honors All-State Choir, again singing Alto 1. Kaci’s future plans include to continue her track career at North Central College and to major in pre-nursing. While in high school Kaci has participated in Track and Field, Cross Country, Band, and Choir, Swim and Dive, Cheerleading, and is a member of Illinois Music Honor Society.

Kaci’s thoughts on making All-State “It feels great knowing when all of your hard work pays off! This will be an amazing performance and a week filled with music and great memories.”

Kaci’s favorite memory in her music classes is making friendships in both band and choir that will last a lifetime.

Isaac Mondello is a senior in Chamber Choir. His parents are Jason Mondello and Mellissa Mondello. Isaac will sing Bass 1 in the Honors All-State Choir. Isaac is Bryon’s first time 3-year member of All-State.

(The rules changed a few years ago to allow sophomores to be eligible for All State). Isaac made it sophomore year in Honors, junior year in All-State, and senior year in Honors.

His future plans are to attend Indiana University. Isaac has participated in Cross Country and Track and Field and is also a member of Illinois Music Honor Society.

He has been involved in both Band and Choir. Isaac’s thoughts on making All-State are: “I love participating in this festival because of all the amazing talent that I get to witness, plus I get to sing in an outstanding choir.” Isaac’s favorite memory from choir is his senior year madrigals.

Sophie Tucker is a senior who is involved in Chamber Choir. Sophie is a two-time member of the Honors All-State Ensemble as a 1st soprano. Her parents are Jill and Jeff Tucker. Her future plans include attending college. She is involved in Theater, Byron Thespian Troup, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National English Honors Society, Illinois Music Honor Society Choir President, and Chamber Choir. Her thoughts on making All-State “I’m very excited that I’ve made All State Honors Choir because it is a huge accomplishment and reflects my love for music!” Sophie’s favorite memory was when the Chamber Choir visited Augustana College and sang with a lot of different schools! It was amazing to learn with students all over Illinois.

While the students were at the All-State Festival, they attended numerous rehearsals, workshops, panel discussion, and master classes. They performed a final concert at the Peoria Civic Center. They will be accompanied to the festival by their teachers, Natalie Haas, band director, and Amy Harn, choir director.

The students are grateful for the financial support from the Byron School District to make it possible for them to attend the All-State Festival.

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