PRESCOTT VALLEY - Amy Van Winkle, choir director at Bradshaw Mountain High School, looked this past Monday afternoon at sheet music as she conducted 18 students in her chamber choir.
"I am hoping you have the maturity to be able to do this," Van Winkle said, adding university choirs are more likely to perform "Feller from Fortune," a Canadian folk song.
Van Winkle read lyrics as she waved her left hand while her right hand held the sheet music.
The 20 choir members - two were absent - attend 55-minute rehearsals five days a week, Van Winkle said. All but five members are seniors.
The practice sessions apparently pay off for the chamber choir, the most advanced of the four choruses at the high school.
The chamber choir garnered superior ratings - based on overall performance - this past October at the Choral Directors of Arizona competition at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix. Choirs from 25 high schools from throughout the state participated, Van Winkle said.
Even more impressive, the chamber choir earned a superior rating Feb. 11 at the NAU Jazz and Madrigal Festival in Flagstaff. Van Winkle said about 80 choirs from high schools in Arizona and New Mexico participated.
Most contests for high school choirs contain 10 categories for judging, Van Winkle said. The categories include tone/vocal production, blend (of voices), diction, interpretation, rhythm, intonation (singing in tune) and repertoire.
Van Winkle, a choir director for 26 years and her first year at Bradshaw, said the chamber choir performs 15 times a year, including at contests. She said a major challenge is "keeping ourselves focused, moving from one thing or another. It is a matter of getting enough repertoire."
Asthma is a challenge for at least six choir members.
"Sometimes it is hard for me to breathe, but the singing helps me to open up my lungs," said Jennifer Wright, a 16-year-old junior who lives in Prescott Valley.
"I really like to sing," Jennifer said. However, she said she wants to study to become an eighth-grade math teacher.
Some choir members, including Tyler Anderson, want to pursue a career in music. Tyler, 17, of Dewey-Humboldt said he wants to become a choir director at a university.
"I feel like you can have a lot more freedom as a choir director," he said. "I have ideas and I have things in my head that I want to do."