By Dedra Cordle
For the musically inclined high school student, it is all about the All-National Honor Ensembles.
Established by the National Association of Music Education as a way to celebrate and honor the nation’s top instrumentalists, performers and vocalists, a selection into any one of the six musical categories is seen as the pinnacle of success.
“It basically means that they have achieved elite status in their area of expertise at the high school level,” said Brandon Moss, a member of the association.
Having joined NAfME more than two decades ago, Moss has heard the stories of heartbreak when student musicians are not accepted into the honor ensembles but he never had to see it up close – until a few years ago, that is.
In 2013, when Moss became the choir director at Central Crossing High School, he made it a mission to tap into the vocal potential of every student who joined his program. He said throughout the years, he has taught some excellent vocalists but none of whom were ever accepted into NAfME’s All-National Mixed Choir.
“We have had many students who were selected into their district’s honor choir or the state honor choir but never into the national honor choir,” he said.
He remarked that their rejection was often as upsetting for him as it was for the students who were informed their application had not been selected.
“I know how much this recognition means to these student musicians,” he said. “Not only are they chosen by the most renowned conductors and educators in the field, but they are given the opportunity to have workshops with these conductors and educators, to create a public performance under their tutelage and to form friendships with their peers across the country who are on the same trajectory.”
He said despite the witnessed disappointments and heartbreak, he wanted to continue to encourage his students to be the best that they could be, to aim high in all aspects of their field and see what happens regardless of any public acknowledgement.
And that is exactly what one of his current students decided to do.
Moss has been teaching Sadie Storts for three years now but he knew of her long before she became a student at Central Crossing.
“People have been talking about her vocal abilities for years,” he said. “It started with her sister and brother and then their mother but I thought it was maybe just a family being really nice.”
Then he heard from Mollie Quick, who was Storts’s choir director at Pleasant View Middle School, who told him that she was the “real deal.”
He quickly determined during her freshman year that she really was.
“Sadie has a mature vocal tone and color and a great ear, which allows her to sing with excellent intonation and enables her to adapt easily to most any style of music,” he said.
He added that he did not have to tell her about the All-National Honor Ensembles.
“I already knew about it well before I became his student,” said Storts, a junior.
Storts said she has never been one to seek out or need public recognition for her vocal abilities but she desperately wanted to be selected into this association’s honor choir.
“I made it a goal to try to achieve this a long time ago,” she said. “I didn’t so much want it for myself but I wanted it for the school.
“While I did think it would be nice to be the first, I really wanted to be selected in order to show the underclassmen and the future students in this program that it can be done, that this is achievable.”
Still, she knew it would be a challenge to be accepted despite her abilities.
“Every person who wants to be a performer, instrumentalist or a vocalist knows that rejection is a part of what we do,” she said. “And when that happens we learn from it and grow and hopefully become better for it.”
During her sophomore year, after being accepted into the Ohio Music Education Association’s Honor Choir, she decided to apply for NAfME’s; she recorded a piece chosen by the association, performed a selected piece in French, received a recommendation from Moss, sent everything off to the committee and crossed her fingers.
A few months later, she was informed that she had been accepted into the NAfME’s All-National Honor Ensemble in the mixed choir category, making her the first choral student at the school to be selected.
“I was so surprised and so excited to be a part of this,” she said. “One of the first things I did was email Mr. Moss and thank him for the encouragement and support.”
Moss said he was so proud of her accomplishment and that he hopes the school and the community will be able to take pride in it as well.
“This is definitely very prestigious for our school, our program and our district,” said Moss. “But really, I am so just so happy for Sadie and for all of the students who look up to her.”
Due to the pandemic, the in-person workshops, clinics, gatherings, practices, and performances were or will be held virtually. Storts said she is currently recording the two pieces required for the mixed choir (the 200 plus participants in this category are being directed by Frances Fonza) and looks forward to seeing how the performance comes together virtually in March.
“It’s been a little different recording individually but I think it is going to be great,” she said. “I hope the community will be able to enjoy watching the performance just as much as I have enjoyed being a part of it.”