Orchestra Students Attend Coe College All-State Workshop


Tai Caputo

Sylvia Plank ’25 and Lucas Ralston ’24 attended the Coe College workshop

Tai Caputo, Reporter

High school musicians at City High and across the state are busy preparing to audition for the annual All-State Music Festival, a multi-day event that includes orchestral, band, and choral performances. Part of the preparation process includes workshops, such as the Coe College Workshop in Cedar Rapids.

Orchestral All-State auditions require students to perform scales, excerpts, and a solo piece. Excerpts are taken from difficult passages in the repertoire that will be played at the All-State festival. Students are rated by judges on technical components like intonation, accuracy, and rhythm.

“Coe College has been hosting an All-State workshop for ten years or so,” Dr. Ghyas Zeidieh, the organizer of the event, said. Zeidieh serves as music director at both the Kirkwood Community College and Cedar Rapids Community Orchestra. “We wanted students to have an introduction, a chance to start on a good foundation because they usually come to the day of the All-State audition, or a couple weeks before the audition, and they still don’t have proper fingerings. So our goal was to help give them tools, and help them be efficient in their practice.”

An optional mock audition gave students the ability to experience the audition process and get feedback on their excerpts and solo. 

“It’s an opportunity for students to be able to play, and we give them feedback, and a sense of how they should be for the All-State audition because practice makes us better,” Zeidieh said. “So the more you practice the music, the better you will get. The more you practice auditioning, the better you will be on the audition day. Our goal as teachers is to teach them the process so that the students are well equipped with the tools and knowledge to practice at home.” 

Lucas Ralston ’24, a City High cellist, thought the workshop was helpful. 

I think it was useful to be able to hear other instruments’ excerpts and to be able to play with them,” Ralston said. “There was also a mock audition portion which is useful for getting feedback on how your excerpts and solo were doing.”

Megan Stucky-Swanson, orchestra director at City, emphasized the importance of the workshop in aiding students who might not have other means of getting help. 

“[The workshop’s purpose is] to aid the preparation of students wanting to audition for All-State that maybe do not have access to private teachers or to directors that are familiar with that level of playing ability,” Stucky-Swanson said. “All-State music is real, legitimate repertoire, which most high schools do not get to experience. There’s an element of literature, there’s an element of intrinsic motivation to learn such difficult excerpts. And at the end–regardless of result, getting accepted or not, you have become a better musician, you have learned better technique, you have learned better repertoire, and therefore you should feel that in and of itself is an accomplishment.”

The All-State Music Festival accepts 80 violinists, 30 violists, and 30 cellists from high schools across the state. 17 orchestra students from City High are auditioning for All-State this year.

“This year is a particularly strong year of students,” Stucky-Swanson said. “So I’m anxious to see the turnout.”