Craig Green, Madison choral students

Madison Choral Director Craig Green poses for a photo with the five students selected for the American Choral Directors Association Midwestern Region Honor Choir. From left to right are Craig Green, Fiath BRammer, Shannon Stapleton, Emalie Green, Karlie Wilson and Brett Lucas.

MADISON -- Five students from Madison Comprehensive High School will represent the Rams in February at one of the nation's most prestigious choral performances.

The students have been selected for next year's American Choral Director's Association (ACDA) Regional Honor Choir.

The Madison delegation includes seniors Faith Brammer, Shannon Stapleton and Brett Lucas and sophomores Emalie Green and Karlie Wilson.

Selection for the choir is extremely competitive -- only 100 high school and 100 middle school students were picked from a 10-state region

Madison Choral Director Craig Green said the ACDA honor choirs are about elite as it gets for high school vocalists. 

“It's a really select thing to get into," said Green, a 1995 Madison graduate. "The kids who get into this kind of become the demo choir for how choral music is taught."

All honor choir students will attend the ACDA's midwestern regional conference from Feb. 16 to 19. Students will spend the first two days of the conference in intense rehearsals with Dr. Gary Packwood, conductor at Mississippi State University, before performing a concert on the last day of the convention.

The performance will feature selections in German and Latin as well as folk songs and spirituals. The concert will also feature the debut performance of a new piece by Dr. Raymond Wise, a professor at Indiana University. The piece was commissioned specifically for the ACDA ensemble.

The ACDA alternates between regional and national honor choirs each year; last year's national honor choir performance was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Each vocalist had to submit an audition recording in September, during which they performed a scale and two pieces of music selected by the ACDA. Singers had to audition individually and sing a cappella -- without other vocalists or instruments.

Then came about four weeks of waiting for the results to come in. The students said they did their best to put the competition out of their minds.

"I feel like that's the best way to get through stuff like this, even with smaller things like musicals," Wilson said. "I just try to forget about it until it really comes down to like the week of, the day of, because you'll just drive yourself crazy if you ponder it."

On the day the results were due, Green was nearly as excited as his students. The results came in gradually throughout the day.

“We knew the results were supposed to come in October 25 and every time my email would ding, you get those anxiety butterflies," Green recalled. “I had to go run and find these kids during my prep period and tell them.”

Stapleton said she was shocked when she found out she'd been selected for the conference. She almost didn't audition in the first place.

“I was like 'If I'm not gonna make it in, I'm not gonna make it in, but I might as well try' because that's honestly all that matters," she recalled.

"I'm glad that I did it because it's so worth it. I've never had an opportunity like this."

It's not the first time students from Madison have made it into the choir. Last year's conference was cancelled due to the pandemic; but in 2019, Madison sent four students to regionals. Just 14 students from Ohio qualified that year.

"It attests to Mr. Green's teaching abilities that so many of us have made it," Brammer said.

Her classmates agreed. According to them, Green excels as a director because he pushes them towards excellence, while still managing to make choir fun.

Details like dynamics, vowel shape and tone and breathing technique set good singers apart from great ones.

"One of my favorite things in a director is that they're not afraid to tell you when you're wrong. And he's definitely not," Brammer said. "It doesn't hurt your feelings. It's corrective criticism, and that's what you need in music.

Green is in his 18th year of teaching choral music at Madison. He said it's been gratifying to see singers mature their voices and hone their craft.

He's also grateful that the district is supportive of the music program.

“Madison is very much grateful. Every opportunity these kids can have, let's give it to them," he said.

All five of the students are members of chorale, an audition-based choral class at Madison.

“My morning classes are really stressful for me, so coming in (to the choir room) is just like a cool down," Wilson said. "It lets me settle and do something that I love to do in such a welcoming environment."

Stapleton described choir as a relief from the stress of the school day.

"This is my favorite class. I get so excited every single day to go to this class," she said. "I just feel like (Green) not only teaches us about music, but to be in the present moment while it lasts."

"I think that's the one thing I'm going to remember after I graduate."

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie@richlandsource.com