Choir student sings at prestigious honor choir for third time

Junior Andrew Onema traveled to Tulsa in January to perform with the the Oklahoma Music Educator’s Association All State Choir clinic and concert


Jennifer Gillis

Andrew Onema after finishing the All-State Choir concert.

Maren Howard, Reporter

For the third time, a talented singer participated in the OKMEA All-State choir clinic  at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center on Jan 19-21.

Junior Andrew Onema is the only student from HCP to make the All-State choir this year. All-State is competitive and students from all over Oklahoma audition. The preparation process for auditions can be grueling, starting in the summer before the fall auditions. Onema practiced a couple of times a week and it doubled to three or four times a week the closer it came to the audition.  

“It was intensive, but we really just have to focus on reading our own lines in the music because that’s all you’re singing,” Onema said. “You’re just hearing yourself sing just your own line, but you don’t want to make any mistakes.”  

At the auditions, students are given a cut of the music to sing in the audition room, as many of the pieces are several minutes long. One song Onema learned was composed in Latin.

Besides practicing the songs, Onema made sure he took good care of his voice beforehand and properly hydrated his vocal cords. 

“Fun fact, the drinks that you take 24 hours before any audition or any vocal thing you do will influence how your voice will act the next day,” Onema said.  

After passing the first round of auditions, Onema went on to the second round where he had to go against everyone in the state. Scores are not given in this round but if participants pass, they get into All-State.  

The hard work and preparations aren’t over yet though, he had to learn three new songs for the All-State event and face a final audition round.  

“If you don’t learn it then they send you home, which is really sad because you made it there, but most people do stay there and so it’s just a big concert that we do,” Onema said.

“The hardest thing overall I would say is probably just like motivating myself to practice and do things like that and not to get just kind of bored from it,” Onema said. “You’re working on it for such a long time and like you keep messing up, and getting discouraged that is something that kind of sets me back a little bit, but as long as I just kept pushing through, I was able to get over it.” 

After the final audition, Onema rehearsed with the other singers to prepare for a concert on the last day of All-State.  

In preparation for the concert, “They’re singing all day long, around eight hours of singing,” said choir director Dr. Jennifer Gillis.

In the end, it is all worth it because colleges are trying to recruit him for their choirs.

“If he wanted to audition for vocal performance at OU (Oklahoma University) and if he got in, they give every person a $1500 scholarship for every year of All-State that they do,” Gillis said. “It’s a big honor.” 

Besides the benefits of All-State, Onema said he felt a bigger connection.

“Singing is kind of like a part of who I am.” 

Onema plans to do it next year during his senior year and he wants others who are interested in All-State to participate.

“Don’t let the intimidation from others stop you,” he said.