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Park sophomore earns spot in prestigious all-state choir

Breanna Roy

She made herself heard.

Last month, Park High School sophomore Brianna Roy was named to the Minnesota All-State Mixed Choir. Brianna, 16, is the first Park choir student to be selected since the 2007-08 school year.

She will attend all-state camp at Concordia College in August. Next February, she will perform with the all-state choir at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. 

“We’re thrilled,” said her mother, Denise Roy of Cottage Grove. “We’re really proud of her. She loves to sing.”

Denise said her daughter gets her singing talent from her father, Mike. He sings in the choir at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.

“We all love music at our house,” Denise said.

Each year, hundreds of students across Minnesota audition for the all-state program. It was created in 1944 by the Minnesota Music Educators Association to provide an immersive musical experience for the best student singers and musicians. Categories include choral, orchestral and band.

Those who make the cut attend a week-long summer camp, during which they rehearse in their respective ensembles. They also receive feedback and private instruction from professional vocalists or instrumentalists. Students also attend seminars on topics from music careers to college admissions and auditions and music in adult life.

Brianna said she sings for the joy of it more than the competition. She sings in the high school choir and performed in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” at Park last weekend.

“It’s just something I started doing when I was little,” she said.

This year, choir candidates for all-state could audition by tape. Students were required to sing a cappella of “Alma del Core,” an aria written by baroque Italian composer Antonio Caldara. They also could sing an “art” song of their choosing. Brianna sang “The Last Rose of Summer.”

She also had to demonstrate her vocal range by singing a scale that encompassed the highest and lowest notes she could reach.

She taped her audition in March under the supervision of Park High School choir director Ben O’Connor. They uploaded the recording to the submissions website. The auditions were judged anonymously, O’Connor said.

“Any of my students have the opportunity to audition,” O’Connor said. “I definitely encouraged her to audition because of her strong leadership. She’s not a talkative leader, but she’s definitely one of those who lead by example. She’s always right where she needs to be. She sings older than her age.”

O’Connor also praised her intonation and her innate musicality.

Brianna said she preferred taping to the ordeal of a live audition.

“I was a little nervous,” she said. “I was trying out for a big choir so I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not. But it’s less stressful than going somewhere and singing alone before a judge.”

The challenge, she said, is “going beyond just learning the song and putting your heart into it. It’s about singing the deepest meaning of the song.”

While she plans to study nursing in college, Brianna said she’ll never stop singing.

“I’m going to do it for the rest of my life because it’s something that I love,” she said.