High school students participate in District Music Performance Assessments
May 4, 2023
Thermopolis High School participated in the District Music Performance Assessments in Powell on April 17 - 18, with ten band and ten choir members participating. The students were led by Music Director Jackson Chitwood and Assistant to the Music Program, Stefani Haga.
The assessments were held at Northwest College at the Nelson Performing Arts Center for schools in the Northern Bighorn Basin. Chitwood said, "We all came together and performed for adjudicators, or three adjudicators for the large ensembles, and one adjudicator for soloists and for small ensembles. We went in and we were the first band to perform. We opened up the whole festival, Thermopolis did, and we just nailed it out of the park. The students stepped up really well that morning, and we opened up the festival with a superior [score] right out of the gate for band. Later on the first day, we had vocal soloists, two of our vocal soloists got superiors, and one of our vocal soloists got excellent."
Chitwood continued and described their second day of assessments and said, "We did not open up the choir portion, but around 11:30 a.m. that day and the choir got an excellent [score] but they were just on the cusp of being a superior. It was so close. I'm talking about singing two more right notes and a couple of vowels being more correct, they were really, really close, because they were really, really bummed that we didn't quite get that superior, but we were super close to getting it. And then later on that day, we had our band solos and all in our jazz band also performed and all of them got superior [scores].
The complete score breakdowns are for Ensembles: Band - Superior - I; Choir - Excellent - II; Jazz Band - Superior - I. Also for Soloists: River Quintanilla - Superior - I; Talyah Myers - Superior - I; Christopher Bapst - Excellent - II; Brendan Butler - Superior - I; Aidan Freeman - Superior - I.Assistant to the Music Program, Stefani Haga said regarding the event and their success, "One of the things I think it's really important to mention is the fact that Jackson is a first-year instructor. And the fact that he took ten bandsmen, and the adjudicators walked up and they were so impressed. They went, 'You just played Claude T. Smith with ten musicians. That's unheard of.'
Haga explained the significance of Chitwood's students performing Claude T. Smith and said, "If you have band literature and you've been in band for 20 seconds, you know Claude T. Smith. It's like Mozart for the band world. He is in it. Very impressive. Everybody knows him... But the fact that we went through and he didn't choose oh here's 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'. That is proper difficult music and the fact that he took ten students [to perform]."
Haga added to the significance of the student's accomplishments at the assessments in Powell with the fact they only had 10 band members and 10 choir members and said, "That is such a huge thing to take such a small group. Because it's not like, oh, here's a little combo which is expected to be small. Bands in a high school should be 30 to 80 members. So he was missing huge chunks of the band. The band itself was missing a huge chunk. Taking a full-size choir as ten members, Again, unheard of."
Music Director Jackson Chitwood earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees in music performance from the University of Wyoming. He grew up in Gillette. Chitwood originally was going into engineering, but in high school, his band director Christopher Lubken pushed Chitwood and inspired him to become a music educator. Chitwood said, "He really, really inspired me to be a music educator and to continue on and to be just like him, to inspire students to play music and to play difficult arrangements of things."
Haga spent 20 years as a military musician in the army playing the flute and as a vocalist. After she retired, Haga performed with the Royal Hawaiian Band for five years on Oahu in Hawaii.