EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — The Marble Falls High School choir program is wrapping up one of its best years ever, but members still have a few things on their to-do list before graduation and summer.
“It’s been a phenomenal year for us,” choir director Bryce Gage said. “The kids have worked so hard this year, and it’s really shown this spring with all the awards and honors they’ve earned.”
The students have two big events remaining. One of those is the end-of-the-year concert, “Red, White, and Blue Review,” at 7 p.m. Friday, May 18, at the high school auditorium, 2101 Mustang Drive. Tickets are $5 at the door.
“The kids look forward to this show because they’re the ones who put it together,” Gage said. “It’s a fun, great way to end the year for the entire choir program. It’s a great one for the community as well.”
The students’ hard work culminates at the University Interscholastic League’s Texas State Solo-Ensemble Contest on May 26-28. This year, 11 Marble Falls students earned a trip to the University of Texas at Austin for the contest.
“It’s a big deal for the students and the program,” assistant choir director Emily Chavez said.
State contestants are Christine Ashbaugh, Kali Thompson, Kyle Hanshaw, McKayla Campbell, Meredith Burdett, Anna Herrington, Kassidy Reitan, Derek Schumacher, Karoline Westermann, Shelby Bettin, and Colby Aguilar.
The Marble Falls High School choir program has grown into one of the most successful programs in the state. In his tenure as choir director, Gage has helped grow the program from a couple dozen students to well over 100. Gage, Chavez, and the Marble Falls Middle School choir teachers also have worked together to sustain the program from the sixth grade up.
The high school will lose several seniors to graduation this year, but Chavez and Gage are anticipating more than 50 incoming freshman in the fall. They already have a large group of freshmen, about 50, who will be sophomores next year.
One draw of choir is simply the success the program enjoys. The choir directors aren’t afraid to challenge their students and set high expectations. Gage and Chavez expect hard work from members.
It pays off, both within the community and beyond.
The Marble Falls High School choir, with plenty of support from the school’s theater department, brought the musical “Guys and Dolls” to the stage in January, earning great reviews by audiences. On April 18, the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards — a partnership of the Long Center in Austin, the University of Texas at Austin College of Fine Arts, and Zach Theatre — honored senior Christine Ashbaugh as Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Adelaide in the musical.
“She had tough competition,” Gage said. “This is like the Tonys for Austin area high school musical theater. There are 38 high schools that participate, so it’s not easy to win.”
Along with the award, Ashbaugh and fellow choir member Kali Thompson earned GAHSMTA scholarships of $1,000 each. The organization accepted 70 applications for scholarships and only awarded 10.
The production of “Guys and Dolls” also earned a nomination for Best Lighting Design, and Thompson and Zach Young were selected to perform in the GAHSMTA finale.
Earlier in April, the choir program took four of its choirs — Chorale, Acappella Choir, Freshman Men’s Choir, and Freshman Women’s Choir — to the UIL Region 29 Concert and Sight-reading Contests at Boerne High School. The Chorale, Acapella, and Freshman Men’s Choir earned straight 1s — the highest score — in the concert and sight-reading contests, which landed them sweepstakes honors. The Freshman Women’s Choir earned straight 1s in sight-reading and just missed out on the top score in the concert portion.
Gage and Chavez took the Marble Falls High School chamber singers — the top kids in the Chorale, which is the top choir — to the Director’s Choice Festival on April 27-28 at San Antonio Madison High School.
The Marble Falls singers earned Best in Class, and five students — Gracie Tinsley, Taylor Wright, McKayla Campbell, Meredith Burkett, and Kyle Hanshaw — won outstanding soloist honors.
During the recent Marble Falls choir banquet, the Directors Awards went to Tinsley, Karoline Westermann, and Madisyn Caraway. Ashbaugh and Thompson also earned National Chorus Awards.
“It’s been an extremely busy year,” Gage added. “The kids have put in a lot of work this year, and we’re so proud of them. We have a few more weeks to go, and they’ll work hard right up until the end.”
Gage and Chavez are working on a few ideas to make next year even more exciting. The annual choir trip, however, has already been set and includes stops in Munich, Germany; Salzburg, Austria; and Prague in the Czech Republic. The students are already busy raising funds to cover the international excursion.