By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Two students from DasselCokato were part of a select group of students chosen to participate in the 2013-14 Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) All-State band and choir program.
DC junior Audrey Aspen of Dassel, the daughter of Lisa Mickle and Thomas Aspen, was selected to participate in the symphonic band playing flute; and DC senior Jacob Dallman of Cokato, the son of Scott Dallman and Marlene Serfling, was selected to be part of the mixed choir.
After being encouraged by their band and choir instructors, Brian Veith and Nate Raabe respectively, the students auditioned for the MMEA All-State band and choir in March.
“Jacob has a strong voice, and I thought he had as fair a shot as anybody,” Raabe said.
After waiting several weeks for the results, they found out they were accepted into the program.
“Veith called, excited I was really, really excited,” said Aspen, who is going into her seventh year as a flutist. She began taking private lessons with Yvonne Rammel of Cokato two years ago.
Dallman has always been interested in singing, but it really became a passion for him about a year ago, after he got his faith back, he said.
About 2,000 students auditioned, and 564 were accepted into the seven All-State groups on the basis of their audition score.
“Audrey has been a great student. After seeing her drive to be a better musician, I simply provided the resources for her and she took the initiative to practice,” Veith said.
After finding out they were accepted, Aspen and Dallman were sent the music they would be performing to prepare for a week-long camp each recently attended.
Raabe said Dallman would come work with him at the school this summer, arriving early with his music well-prepared.
“I’m impressed with his work there. He was an easy All-State student to work with,” said Raabe, who assists at All-State. “It’s a great experience for those kids.”
Aspen also had two additional auditions for placement at first or second flute, or piccolo. She placed eighth of the 14 flutes accepted into the symphonic band, and played second flute.
Once they arrived at their respective camps, Aspen at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and Dallman at St. John’s University, practice was intense.
Both appreciated working with other musicians of similar caliber and passion as themselves.
“It was great to be around people who share the same musicality as me,” Dallman said.
“There was a lot of playing seven hours a day but even the very first read-through we did was good enough to give chills,” Aspen said. “Everyone was so dedicated to the music, and really put expression into every single note they played.”
The experience helped Dallman sing better, he said. For instance, one of the coaches helped him with his range.
“When you go lower, you tend to go more into your body than singing out,” Dallman said. “He taught us to be brighter, use less weight and more breath it helped me a lot.”
Because he was so well-prepared, Dallman was able to take a lot of notes and practice more while at the camp than some of the other participants, he said.
“It was an awesome experience because of the focus the conductor didn’t let us talk a lot,” Dallman said. “Some people thought that was mean, but I thought, ‘this is what choir is supposed to be if you want to be good.’”
For Dallman, the experience was life-changing due to a good friend he met and connected with that made him realize he really wants to go into youth ministry.
Aspen noted how it was easy to make friends with all the people in attendance at the camp because they shared an interest in music.
“It was unbelievable how happy everyone was to be there,” she said. “There were not negative comments because everyone felt so privileged to be there.”
She noted that playing with such talented individuals and listening to them play improved her skills as a musician.
“The way I play changed just from this one week,” she said.
Aspen noted music, for her, is a way to express oneself without words. “Even if people haven’t had the same experiences, we can convey the same emotions through music.”
Although Dallman is also in band, playing the saxophone, he said if he had to choose now, he would probable stay with choir.
“It’s more personal with words and is coming directly from us, where in band there are no words and you just play through something,” Dallman said.
Aspen plays in every band offered at DC, and is also an FFA member.
In February, the All-State groups will reconvene and perform as part of the MMEA annual convention in Minneapolis.