Getting into the state honors choir isn’t easy, but five Girard Middle School students made it this year.

Getting into the state honors choir isn’t easy, but five Girard Middle School students made it this year.
For Madison Smith, eighth grader, it was her fourth time in the honors choir. It was the first time for Alix Beezley, Emily Rawlings, Taylor Berry and Tanner Edwards, all sixth graders.  All are students of Angela Stansberry, who teaches vocal music in grades six through 12 at Girard Middle School and High School.
Edwards had the honor of being Stansberry’s first male student to make the choir.
“It feels kind of awkward,” he said, but gave his teacher a thumbs up for her work.
Stansberry explained that students audition for the choir by singing an a capella selection.
“Everybody sings the same thing, and they’ve been using the selection for years,” she said. “You have to be not only a good singer but a pretty good musician to make it through this ‘Alleluia’.”
There are 250 GMS students, and 111 of them are in the vocal music program.
“I practice with the entire choir  so that all of them know the audition selection,” Stansberry said. “About one-third of them usually decide to audition. I think I sent off about 30 auditions this year. I do it on the computer, which makes a nice quality recording.”
All the teacher can do for the students on the audition recording is give them the initial pitch in which they must sing.
“Then they’re on their own, and I can’t help them,” Stansberry said.
There are usually well over 500 students auditioning for the honors choirs.
“Schools in the Kansas City area tend to dominate the honors choirs,” Stansberry said. “Schools like Shawnee Mission South may have 12 or 13 students accepted for the honors choir, so I think we’ve done very well here at Girard to have five accepted this year. Last year there were six GMS students who made it.”
A Pittsburg State University graduate, Stansberry is in her fifth year of teaching at Girard. She’s also a trained opera singer.
“The last opera I did was ‘Pirates of Penzance’ with the Springfield Regional Opera, in the role of Mabel,” she said. “It was just too much to teach, drive to Springfield, then drive back.”
She also sang quite a bit with the Heartland Opera Theatre, Joplin, when Terrence O’Brien, also a PSU graduate, was director.
“I still sing when I can, and will be singing in May in the oratorio directed by Susan Marchant,” Stansberry said. “Sometimes I even sing for my students.”