Seckman High School's band room and choir room are covered in plaques and have overflowing trophy cases. Students in the rooms feel a sense of tradition, a tradition of hard work, dedication and competition. This year, the band and choir hope to use that tradition to earn another trophy in Chicago, where both groups will compete at the Heritage Festival.
“I’m ready to take home the third sweepstakes. Since my freshman year, we’ve been going to these things. And the past two years, my sophomore and junior year, we’ve won the whole thing,” Matt Guidicy, Seckman senior and choir president, said.
A sweepstakes can be achieved by either the band or the choir or for their school. Separately, the band or the choir can achieve a sweepstakes if the group wins every category in which it participates. Seckman High School can win a sweepstakes as a school if both the band and choir win all categories.
Winning a sweepstakes is no easy task, and both groups have had intensive rehearsal schedules to prepare for the festival. Band director Randy Hodge described this year as “the most competitive Heritage Festival we’ve ever been to.”
He challenged the band by saying, “If you want to excel, you’re going to have to bring it every day.”
“It’s very hectic. It’s grueling preparing for both,” said Colleen Seyer, senior band and choir member. “Both band and choir are really pushing to make sure everything is flawless, and it is a lot of fun, but also a lot of hard work because we work until the time we leave.”
While the competition may be fierce, it also provides a unique learning opportunity for students. Heritage festivals, which occur throughout the country, are accredited by Northwest Association of Accredited Schools. This means that the festival itself is a traveling school. After students' performances, judges will provide constructive criticism and tips. Students are also allowed to attend workshops with other conductors to improve their performances.
The students work with judges, watch other performers and learn to improve their performances, parent Nancy Hodge said.
“It’s a quality festival. We have adjudicators that are known nationwide,” choir teacher Mark Cotter said.
The Seckman performers also improve from listening to other choirs and bands at the event. Students evaluate the sound and synchronization of other choirs and bands, compare performances and then learn which areas need improvement, senior Jacob Ridenour said.
Despite all the sweeps at stake and tough competition ahead, Hodge and Cotter just want the students to do their best.
“It’s just trying to get students to perform at their best and really think about, not only the notes on the page, but making music,” Hodge said.
Seckman students will travel to Chicago today and will perform today and tomorrow.