Seniors earn top vocal honors: All-state choir member, alternate prove hard-work, dedication key to success

Earning a spot in the all-state choir is a prestigious accomplishment that only the top seven vocalists in each voice part are awarded each year. Senior Claire Beesaw earned third chair all-state mixed choir soprano and senior Abby Surley was selected as ninth chair (1st runner-up) for all-state treble choir.

The all-region choir contest began in September, with 50-100 singers auditioning in each voice part and 1400 auditioners total. Singers then advanced to region, pre-area, and area, where only the selected handful advanced through each round. Eighty-percent of a singer’s score is based on cuts from pieces they have prepared, while the other 20% is based on sight reading which combine to create the list for all-state choir.

“It meant a lot to be selected for all-state choir,” Claire said. “It was a goal of mine since my freshman year, I kind of just let it happen instead of the ‘it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be’ mentality. I was really thankful to be able to make it to that point and the convention was a lot of fun.”

BHS choir directors Alex Medlock and Brittany Gibson have been with Claire throughout high school, giving her the help and support she needed to find success.

“Claire is both hard-working and talented,” Medlock said. “I’ve taught students who didn’t have the most amazing talent and they achieved what they wanted through hard work. But having those two components is required to reach that level of choir.”

Julie Birkner, who works with current choir students in private lessons, was the choir director for many years before the current directors and believes that part of Claire’s success comes from her ability to take direction well.

“Claire is meticulous, she has a naturally beautiful voice,” Birkner said. “Every suggestion that is made for her to enhance the voice quality, tone, she follows through 100%. She always prepared ahead of time with her music and is just a delight to teach.”

Claire’s support has not only come from her instructors but also from family.

“It is such an elite accomplishment for her to be the one of the 224 students to make the choir out of the 14,000 who audition,” Claire’s mother, Kristen Beesaw said. “I was thrilled that her hard work had paid off and also humbled to know her musical gift was recognized as one of the best of the best.”

Abby worked equally as hard throughout the auditioning season and put forth her best effort during the competition.

“I continued to practice the state music, but did not believe I would be called up for the area audition,” Abby said. “Just before the area auditions, I was called up. I was shocked, happy, scared, and nervous. When I found I placed 1st alternate for state I was excited because I wasn’t supposed to be there, but disappointed at the same time because I was so close.” 

Though Abby did not do as well as she hoped, she is still proud of what she accomplished this year.

“It was both exciting and disappointing to be the first alternate for state choir,” Abby said. “I placed higher than I had in previous years by earning an alternate position at the Pre-Area audition, but I believed my chances of moving on were limited.”

Abby has been a part of choir since the third grade and her love for music has pushed her to make a plan to include it in her life even after high school.

“Singing is what keeps me happy, focused, relaxed, and allows me to forget anything that I am worried or stressed about,” Abby said. “Even though I will not be a music major in college, I know there are multiple singing groups on campus that I can join and continue to grow as a musician.”
Watching Abby perform at the acapella concerts and sing solos has been a highlight of her high school years to Abby’s mother, Nikki Surley.
“As a vocalist, Abby has improved tremendously over the last four years,” Surley said. “She has not only improved in her singing ability but also in her confidence on stage. She used to be scared of solos.”

For many high school students, extracurricular activities play a big part in their lives where they create bonds and experience new things.
“I really enjoy choir and singing,” Claire said. “Being in choir is like a little family for me, especially vocal legacy, and it’s just a lot of fun if you have an appreciation for music.”
Choir director Brittany Gibson agrees that choir is like its own family unit and allows students to find support even outside of their own homes.
“Choir serves as a family to a lot of students,” Gibson said. “We’re here for each other, outside of choir concerts and auditions and everything else, we support each other well. They’re my school children.”

Gibson sees singing in a group setting as good for people emotionally, physically, and mentally. She believes that being able to facilitate that as a teacher allows her to connect to other people through singing and creating music.
“I want students to learn more about life-skills than music skills,” Gibson said. “I want them to be hard workers, I want them to be dedicated, motivated, self-starting, kind human beings.”

Along with her choir family and vocal prowess, Claire has gained a lot of confidence from singing and being on stage.
“Choir has helped me break me out of my shell,” Claire said. “Without choir, I wouldn’t be able to put my voice on display. I don’t think of myself as someone who just gets up in front of people and sings, but choir makes me do that and it’s been a really good thing for me.”

According to Gibson, becoming a successful singer requires lots of hard work, and a student must be teachable and willing to apply advice from others to their singing. Both Claire and Abby have left their directors with a sense of pride in what they each have accomplished.

“Both Claire and Abby had a goal that they set during the summer before school even started,” Gibson said. “They worked tirelessly to achieve that goal and really committed themselves to the process.”