WHS music program one of state’s best
This past school year offered another strong showing by Woodstock High School’s student musicians. High scores by the choirs and band in their respective state music competitions this spring placed Woodstock High School fourth in the state. WHS finished in the top five each of the last six years.
“When rankings first came out we were third, but then we were outranked by a school with an orchestra program, so we came in fourth,” said WHS choral director Paul Rausch.
Because ranking is based on combined scores for choirs, band and orchestras (which WHS doesn’t currently have), the accomplishment is even more significant.
“We have a strong program,” said Rausch. “Cory (Halberstad) has done an excellent job with the band. But we don’t perform, the students do. Every year, there are new kids coming in who have to rise up and perform at this level.”
One hundred fifty-five students are involved in chorus and 90 are in band. About 10 students are in both.
In March, the students performed at the Illinois High School Association Solo and Ensemble competition at Antioch High School. In April, they performed at the IHSA Organizational Contest at Grayslake North High School. The combined scores from the competitions determines the music sweepstakes winners.
Preparation begins months beforehand. In January, choral students who are interested in performing solos at the state event participate in a precontest, in which two paid judges evaluate them and select the top 20 to 24 to perform at state. The experience is valuable, even for the students who are not selected, Rausch said.
“Everyone gets to perform and hear a critique,” he said.
All choral students participate in ensembles, ranging from two to nine performers. Freshmen and sophomores perform in larger ensembles, while the juniors and seniors perform in smaller groups. “The younger kids need more guidance, but the older kids are more self-directed,” Rausch said.
Band ensembles follow a similar pattern, he said. Though many schools select only their strongest ensembles to perform at state, all of WHS’s groups do.
“It gives the kids more responsibility to prepare and perform a song,” said Rausch.
Competition performances are ranked superior, excellent, good, fair or poor. A number of choir and band soloists and ensembles earned superior ratings, as did the varsity choir, jazz choir, Standing Room Only bass choir, Premium Blend treble choir, the jazz ensemble band and the varsity band. The symphonic band and jazz combo earned excellent ratings.
Rauch says his students’ interest in music doesn’t end at graduation.
“Even [among] those who aren’t music majors, many continue performing in college. We’ve had kids win music scholarships. At Milliken University, there’s a vocal group that was started by a couple of kids from Woodstock. We’ve also had students pursue music careers, and they’re very well prepared by the experience they had at Woodstock High School,” he said.