One after another: Eagles soar in band, choir, debate contests

Katie Hillemeyer, Editor

Despite COVID-19, the Arts Department is finding ways to let students show off their skills thanks to determination from students, coaches, advisors and those hosting competitions and auditions.

During the Spring semester, due to the novel coronavirus, all OSSAA events were canceled – or postponed indefinitely, only to not happen. Students, coaches, and advisors sat at the edge of their seats in late July and early August to find out when (or if) activities and sports would be held in the fall. Fortunately, it was announced that activities would indeed occur during the school year.

The sigh of relief was soon followed with confusion as teams and officials have had to suddenly adjust to virtual ways of competing and auditioning.


Senior Gage Catteeuw earned 12th chair in the OSSBDA Small-School All State Band.

“It’s one audition, and then since I got in I get to go to OCU for the clinic, which is two days, one day of 10-12 hours of practice and one day of 3-4 hours of practice and a concert in the evening,” Catteeuw said.

“It’s the highest level band I’ve been invited to play in so that’s exciting!” Catteeuw continued. “OSSBDA Small-School All State is the highest level band that you can audition for in high school, which makes me getting in super cool for me, and there are always amazing directors that you get to work with during the clinic. It’s always a learning experience, and playing with the best in the state is an experience like nothing else!”

Freshman Colin Ruhl earned 8th chair trombone at CODA.

“It really means a lot to me. I have auditioned for CODA since 7th grade and this is the first year that I have placed in a chair,” Ruhl said.

“The audition process was definitely different this year- it was strange to be at school with no one else there,” Ruhl continued. “I did think it was easier to audition with people I know, rather than staring at a black sheet with people behind it.”

Junior Ryan McLaughlin also earned an alternate bassoon spot in the CODA 10-12th grade band.


Senior Simone Pico and Freshman Andrew Onema have both earned spots in the OMEA All-State choir, making it through several rounds of auditions.

The All-State final concert will be held on January 21-January 23 via Zoom by sending in their individual performances to an audio engineer, who will compile the recordings into a single piece.

During round 1 of auditions, students sing snippets of three of the four audition songs (released in July). Those who advance to round 2 sing different parts of two of the three songs sung in round one plus a snippet of the fourth song. Each snippet is meant to challenge the singer in a specific area.

Pico described “Kyrie Eleison” humorously as a “breath holding contest.”

“What’s the longest phrase you can sing? Can you hold a note forever? I like that because it gives us the chance to shape a single note,” Pico said. “Music can really happen on just one note.”

“”Awake the Trumpets Lofty Sound’ has some more melodic parts which are fun to sing, they highlight my tone and large instrument,” Pico continued. “‘Die Onse Vader’ is the faster one, and it works on my diction and making sure I really enunciate each consonant and vowel.”

The virtual audition process presented Pico with challenges:

“Auditioning virtually sucks… a lot. It really gives people with proper equipment a huge advantage,” Pico said. “The AC doesn’t kick in because their rooms are soundproofed. Their vibrato doesn’t ruin the recording because they have nice microphones. they don’t have to take 5-6 takes to make sure the volume is balanced with the background music because they have nice speakers that are more adjustable.”

Freshman Andrew Onema earned the Top Tenor 2 score at OCDA All-State.

“Usually we would go to an event center and and audition in front of a panel of judges, but this year due to Covid and the rise of cases in our state, they had to make everything virtual,” Onema said. “You would pick up your sheet at a local store and have about a month to memorize the music.”

This was his first year auditioning for All-State, but he found the process less stressful than previous years.

“This was my first time doing All-State choir, but I was told that usually they would release the cuts the same day when you go in person, and then you would audition. So, in my opinion, it was less stressful,” Onema said.

Like OMEA, students practice different songs to showcase different skills. Onema sung “Hold Fast to Dreams, “The Roof” and “Joy.”

“In ‘Hold Fast to Dreams,’ it was more about timing. In ‘The Roof,’ it was more about breathing and strong notes. ‘Joy’ was more about being able to count and holding a large note at the end,” Onema said.

Onema feels his success reassures him by reminding him of his connection to God and the blessings he believes he has been blessed by God with.

“I’ve been singing from a young age and I’ve felt pressured to stop singing at younger parts of my life to fit in, but accomplishments like these remind me of the gift that God has given me,” Onema continued.

Speech and Debate

OSSAA announced in early August that tournaments would be held virtually using the tournament hosting service “Tabroom.” Speech events (i.e, original oratory and poetry) were held by students sending in pre-recorded performances. Debate and extemporaneous speaking events are the only events currently being held synchronously. The Oklahoma debate circuit had not yet held a tournament virtually, which was something that other (larger) circuits previously have had experience with.

Sophomore Aydin Reed competed in one of the synchronous events – foreign extemporaneous speaking – at the Jenks tournament.

“Overall, I enjoyed competing online. Not having to stay up until 2 am waiting for the bus to bring us back to school was the best part,” Reed said.

However, it did not come without its challenges as the tournament started running behind due to technical issues.

“[The tournament directors] were double booking rooms (for instance there would be four teams in one room instead of two), and [the tournament directors] were also having internet problems at the hosting location,” Reed continued.

The complete list of students who have qualified for Regionals so far this semester is listed below:
Junior Aydin Read– International Extemp (Jenks)
Junior Megan Surbeck– Original Oratory (Jenks)
Junior Faith Morrison– Monologue (Westmoore)
Sophomore Poojita Sitaraman– Standard Oratory (Westmoore)