Dale, Diem, and Kurtz advance to All-State Band and Chorus


(From left to right) Emma Dale, Kevin Kurtz, and Jenna Diem

Students Emma Dale, Jenna Diem, and Kevin Kurtz surpass all expectations with Dale and Diem qualifying for All-State Band and Kurtz All-State Chorus. For All-State Band, the top two in each section are chosen to advance to the next level, and for All-State Chorus, the top four of each section are selected to continue on.

Jenna Diem explained the process of how auditions went this year.

“I had to submit a video. Each instrument got their own excerpts they had to play and they would pick two out of the four that we were going to audition with,” Diem said. “It’s a lot of just playing everything exactly right. I guess you could say it’s a test to see who can play it the most accurate and follow not only the rhythms but the dynamics and the feel of the whole song.”

Auditions for All-State Chorus were very similar to All-State Band according to Kevin Kurtz. Kurtz said that everyone would submit an audition video and they would be ranked.

Most years consist of in-person events, but this year, everything was submitted pre-recorded as a video.

Dale commented about her thoughts on her audition.

“I was very confident that my audition was good, but I had no idea because there’s so little of my instrument, I didn’t expect to make top two, but I was very excited about it,” Dale said.

Kurtz added on about how shocked he was when he found out that he qualified. According to him, he didn’t think his audition was good enough but is still happy about the end result.

Mrs. Erin Knepper, who is the chorus teacher at PAHS, talked about Kevin’s growth throughout his singing career.

“Kevin in particular has really made it his goal to go to States as a senior and so he – in his lessons over the past few years – has really worked hard to grow his voice,” Knepper said. “He has perfect pitch so he is a strong musician, but his voice needed to mature as he was maturing so he’s really worked hard to match his pitch and musicality with a voice that is growing. So for him, I know he worked very hard.”

Mr. Kurt Cessna, the Band Director at PAHS, also shared his thoughts about how it feels when one of his students accomplishes such a goal.

“It makes me proud to know that their hard work and dedication for years and years has all paid off and that they have achieved their goal,” Cessna said.

When asked about the people who have made an impact in their careers, all three students commented on how Cessna and Knepper were at the top of the list.

“Mr. Cessna is awesome,” Dale said. “He will play with me any period of the day. He is always willing to help. My friends and family are also very supportive.”

“Mrs. Knepper has been helping me with doing all those lessons this year to help me practice my voice, get better at singing, and improve my faults so that I can do better this year,” Kurtz said.

“Mr. Cessna has been there a lot for me musically,” Diem said. “He’s taught me so much. I would have private lessons with him when I was younger and I learned so many things. I’ve also learned various things from Mrs. Knepper. I think I learned a lot in that first year of festivals because it was brand new music, brand new everything, and he taught me how to read the music, how to figure it out, and from there I was able to take it and run with it.”

All three students and both advisors offer some advice to younger students.

“If you work hard, it’s gonna pay off,” Diem said. “It may not pay off when you want it to and you’re gonna hit bumps along the way but you’ll get to the point where you can be satisfied with what you’ve done. Everything will pay off and it will be worth all the work you put into it.”

“It’s a lot of hard work but if you set your mind to it and do the work there is no reason why you can’t do it. Just work hard,” Dale said.

“You gotta work hard, you gotta practice,” Kurtz said. “You also have to know the mistakes you are making and work to resolve them. Take notes and practice so it sticks with your memory.

Cessna commented on how important it is to have a routine. According to him, consistency is everything.

“I like to teach people to be musically independent of me and obviously if they’re competing at an All-State level and even being first in their sections then that lets me know that I have done my job,” Cessna said. “They’ve had enough success that they can now go out and be productive on their own. That’s what makes me feel good. Music is a lifelong skill that they will have forever.”