Junior singer recognized at Eanes Board Meeting for placing in Texas All-State Choir

Lexy Connolly

On Feb. 23, the Eanes Board of Trustees honored the 10 choir, band and orchestra students who achieved All-State honors this year. Junior Emma Bushong was one of the three choir students to be recognized. Emma was awarded seventh chair for her work as a Soprano 1, earning her a spot in the prestigious Texas All-State Women’s Choir.

The process of becoming a State vocalist was anything but easy. The contestants could get their music as early as May and then spent the next several months preparing for the first of three rounds of auditions, which occurred in October. Emma didn’t waste any time, instead jumping straight into an intense schedule of rehearsing.

“Over the summer, I did a week-long camp learning the music,” Emma said. “I got to have very focused training on the music with voice teachers that I know and love. It was a smaller camp, so I got more personal attention and was able to learn the songs with my best friends, which was really fun. It didn’t even feel like work.”

The repertoire of music consisted of eight high-level pieces written by composers such as Handel and Brahms. During the summer, the contestants were told which three of the eight songs they should prepare to sing at the first round, the Region competition. On Oct. 17, the day of the competition, the singers received a “cut” (a short portion) from each of the three songs to sing for judges. Emma earned first chair at this round, qualifying her to move onto the next audition, Pre-Area.

At Pre-Area on Nov. 17, the competition got more serious — the top 13 singers from Region get whittled down to just six. Recognizing the stakes, Emma increased her focus, especially when faced with inevitable obstacles.

“I probably worked on the music for four or five hours a week,” Emma said. “The whole process could get really exhausting and stressful. [As an example], right before the Pre-Area round of auditions, I got bronchitis, which made it a lot harder to sing and practice the music. But I just had to work through it and focus on getting better.”

Singing the same songs day in and day out could get repetitive for many young musicians. However, Emma’s background in musical theater helped keep her interested by teaching her to see each song as a story.

“I always go back into the character of the song and look at the lyrics,” Emma said. “I try to focus on the text and what it says, who’s saying it and what their feelings are on what they are saying. It really helps me stay connected and engaged in what I’m singing. My musical theater background has made it easier for me to express more when singing because I’ve learned how to convey the message that a song is trying to get across.”

Emma’s intense focus paid off at the Pre-Area auditions, where she qualified to move on, and then again at the Area auditions, where she was named seventh chair Soprano 1 in the Texas All-State Choir.

“When I found out I had made the Women’s Choir, I pretty much blacked out,” Emma said. “I was in total shock. After that, my first instinct was to grab onto my friend and hug her. I was so excited; I felt like all the blood in my body had just gotten hot and exploded.”

The All-State Women’s Choir is composed of 168 high schoolers who displayed superior talent and hard work throughout the All-State process. The singers met from Feb. 11-14 for the TMEA Choir All-State Convention in San Antonio where they worked together for the first time as a choir in preparation for a concert. The caliber of musicianship that she was surrounded by at the All-State clinic inspired Emma and proved to her what an honor it was to be a part of the group.

“It was a really magical experience,” Emma said. “You don’t realize going into it what a cool thing it is, but once you get there, you realize how smart and capable and talented everyone there is. When you put all of that hard work together, it makes the most amazing payoff.”

For Emma, the rewarding feelings that she got at the end of the process made all of the stress and exhaustion leading up to her first performance as part of the All-State Choir completely worth it.

“It might not all be fun while you’re doing it,” Emma said. “But when you get to that finish line and you’ve made it and done it, it’s the most gratifying thing to know that you are capable of being a part of something so big.”

Other All-State musicians included: sophomore Jacob Feldman on alto saxophone, senior Peter French on bassoon, senior Ginger Hooper on trumpet, sophomore Lucas Revering in choir, sophomore Jasper Lin on viola, sophomore Lillian Sun on violin, sophomore William Wang on cello, junior Ryan Zhao on cello and senior Elekos Praxis in choir.