Band, Choir, Orchestra students participate in KMEA State

Kris Long, Print Editor-in-Chief

Manhattan High qualified 29 music students for the Kansas Music Education Association state conference over the weekend in Wichita. Students representing the Choir, Orchestra and Band programs in the KMEA All-State Band, String Orchestra, Full Orchestra, Mixed Choir and Treble Choir. 

Band and Orchestra students were chosen for the event after auditioning and qualifying for district ensemble earlier in the year, then participating in a live audition for state in January. Choir students had one audition for both district and state. 

“In terms that some people might understand, it’s our state champions,” Band Director Joel Gittle said. “29 students… [is] a big number for us… just to be selected for the state level is pretty big”

Along with students earning the honor of State ensemble qualification, Gittle was named Outstanding Music Educator at the conference. 

“It was humbling,” Gittle said. “It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers.”

Selected band students included sophomore Kathryn Pittman, junior Neo Kim, senior Tanner McIntosh and junior Aspen Tallent for Band Ensemble, as well as seniors Jecca Park and Steph Motts for Full Orchestra. Students performed and worked with clinicians to improve their musical skills. 

Kim also received his three-year medallion for his third year being selected for All-State. 

“That was pretty exciting,” Kim said. “But just hanging out with friends [was my favorite part] to be honest. The music part was definitely good, but I think the biggest thing was friends.” 

The Orchestra had 13 students selected for All-State, seven for String Orchestra and six for the top-tier Full Orchestra, making MHS the school with the second-highest number of orchestra students selected. String orchestra’s participants were junior Lillian Brooks-Kanost, junior Madison Hsu, sophomore Eva Pickering, sophomore Jarvin Gomez, sophomore Arianna Snell, senior Ava Bahr and freshman Rachel Wei. The full orchestra included junior Julius Neumann, senior Jenna Keeley, senior Joshua Fan, junior Thomas Loub, freshman Rebekah Pickering and senior Gabriel Katzenmeier. 

“It’s always such an amazing experience to be part of All-State orchestra,” Neumann said. “It’s always such an honor, it’s so much fun to be with the best student musicians in all of Kansas.”

Choir qualified three students for Treble Choir and seven for Mixed Choir. Treble participants included juniors, Navaeh Buffington, Tavia Buffington and Sophia Evangelidis. Sophomore Marlia Jimenez, juniors Anthony Belin, Carter Keesecker and Olivia Payne, and seniors Parker Freeby, Ronald Hill and Hayden Holmberg made Mixed Choir. 

“The whole experience was amazing,” Keesecker said. “Everyone was super nice and friendly. Our conductor was absolutely amazing.”

This year brought back the in-person Ensemble after online and canceled events due to COVID-19 in previous years. 

“We haven’t had one in person in two years,” Gittle said. “First, two years ago it was canceled and last year was virtual. And this year we’re back, and so I made a joke with everybody that we get to go to KMEA in 3D this year. And it was just nice to hear live performances. It was nice to go to sessions, talk to other band directors, music teachers, it’s a great trip.”