Cheney Free Press -

By John McCallum

Cheney music students head to prestigious conference


John McCallum

Cheney High School music students selected to participate at the Washington Music Educators Association all-state and all-Northwest performances are front row left to right Devon Gorham (tenor 1), Holly Passey (tenor 2) and Gavin Mowreader (bass 1). Back row left to right are Logan Tiedt (tenor 2), Kordin Shumway (bass 2), Nahiely Heredia (soprano 2) and instrumentalist Christopher Knox (trumpet 2, soloist).

Seven Cheney High School music students have been selected to participate in the 2013 Washington Music Educators Association All-State and All-Northwest performing groups, Feb. 14-17 in Portland, Ore. The four-day rehearsals and workshops culminate in concerts Sunday, Feb. 17 at the Oregon Convention Center.

The Cheney group is comprised of choral members Devon Gorham (tenor 1), Holly Passey (tenor 2) and Gavin Mowreader (bass 1), Logan Tiedt (tenor 2), Kordin Shumway (bass 2) and Nahiely Heredia (soprano 2) who were all selected to the All-State Symphonic Choir. Instrumentalist Christopher Knox was selected to the All-Northwest Jazz Band – which is separate from the Concert Band – as trumpet 2, soloist.

The conference is the reward for competing against over 2,200 other music students from high schools throughout Washington. Those selected will combine with students from five other states for the National Association for Music Education, Northwest Division performances as well.

“The competition ended when people were picked through the auditions,” Knox said during a group interview last Friday.

Those auditions for choir required students to submit audition CDs with four exercises all sung without instrumental accompaniment – a capella.

Cheney music director Harlan Henderson said students had to perform two scale exercises, sing one verse of “America the Beautiful” and do one chromatic exercise while singing “I love to sing.”

“That test is to see whether their ear is good enough to move up seven half steps on the scale,” Henderson said.

The CDs were sent to a selection committee who reviews each one and makes nominations. Henderson said Cheney typically gets 1-4 selections each year, so having seven picked out of 13 who auditioned is an honor for the program and school.

It’s the first time attending the conference for all of the students except Passey, who was at last year’s. While the experience involved a lot of hard work in the rehearsals, which are led by world-renowned conductors, she said there was also time for fun and getting to know the students from around the region. For Passey, getting to perform with such an advanced group is a highlight.

“The sound that comes out of these people is beautiful,” she said.

The choral students perform seven songs at the conference, while instrumental students do five. The songs range in variety, with students required to learn their parts beforehand on their own.

Heredia said they are able to go to the WMEA website and download the songs, allowing them to practice them by singing at home.

“You can hear your part and where it fits,” she said.

The Cheney students were planning their first combined rehearsal for last Friday, Jan. 18. In Portland the various choirs will all wear their own uniforms, which can be very colorful onstage.

“We look like waiters,” Passey said of Cheney’s black and white uniforms.

Knox said much is the same for his five pieces as it is for the choir. One of the songs is the 1939 jazz standard “I Thought About You,” with the version being performed in Portland arranged by University of Idaho instructor Vern Sielert.

While the competition was stiff all around, Knox said it was harder to get into some groups than others in the instrumental categories. For instance the Symphonic Band had more slots than others so there were more opportunities.

“There’s only one jazz band and there’s five (trumpet) slots, so it’s more competitive,” Knox said. “I was one of five (in the Northwest) and I got the second spot.”

“That’s a big honor for Chris,” Henderson said. “That’s a huge thing.”

All seven of the students agreed that performing with larger groups of other musicians at their level of experience, along with meeting people from other places, was what they looked forward to in their time in Portland. One student, Shumway, likely added what the others were thinking, but perhaps didn’t want to vocalize.

“I’ll be happy to be out of school,” he said.

John McCallum can be reached at

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