Musical Mustangs

Chugiak High named top music department at Heritage Festival


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Chugiak High’s music department won the Choral, Instrumental and Overall Sweepstakes trophies at the Heritage Music Festival in San Francisco April 13.

PHOTO COURTESY OF RON LANGE

Chugiak High has a top-notch music department — and it has the hardware to prove it.

Chugiak won the Choral, Instrumental and Overall Sweepstakes trophies — the competition’s top honors — at the Heritage Music Festival, which featured 19 schools from six states, in San Francisco on April 13.

“It was a sweep,” said band teacher Mike Martinson. “It was quite amazing.”

The Sweepstakes trophies are awarded to the school with the highest combined score for each category.

Three choirs (men’s, women’s, and concert), two bands (jazz and symphonic) and the orchestra competed for Chugiak.

Despite qualifying for the 2A level (schools with a population of 1,200 students or less) Chugiak competed at the 3A level — schools with more than 1,200 — in three categories.

The Mustangs finished first each time.

The men’s choir, women’s choir and jazz band each won at the 3A level. The concert choir took first at the 2A level and all three choirs received gold ratings.

“It felt good to beat some big schools,” choir teacher Ron Lange said. “It was a real achievement to do that well.”

The students erupted in jubilation during the awards ceremony, Lange said.

“They were screaming and hollering,” he said. “It was a wonderful time.”

Each of the 41 choral students put in countless hours preparing for the festival, Lange said.

“They’re real hard workers,” he said.

Chugiak’s symphonic band placed first at the 2A level and both bands received gold ratings.

“They all performed so well,” Martinson said.

Chugiak also brought home two individual awards.

Alto saxophone player Dane Breitung and trumpeter Mark Landon each earned a “Maestro Award,” which were presented to just eight individuals out of more than 2,500 students who participated.

Martinson said his first Heritage Festival was a memorable trip.

“It was a good experience,” he said. “The kids loved it.”

Chugiak’s 13-member orchestra earned a silver rating and helped win the Instrumental Sweepstakes trophy. Orchestra teacher Jean Lenoir said she was shocked they weren’t given a gold rating.

“To me it was a gold performance,” she said. “It was just about flawless.”

None of the judges had an orchestra background, Lenoir said, which she speculated was the reason Chugiak didn’t receive a top rating.

But the orchestra students didn’t let that dampen their spirits, Lenoir said.

“The kids had a blast,” she said.

Lenoir, who splits her time between Chugiak and Mirror Lake Middle School, has taught most of her students since sixth-grade.

“It’s a pleasure for me to see how far they’ve come,” she said.

Chugiak competed with orchestras eight times larger, Lenoir said.

“They did such a nice job,” she said. “They’re just so musical.”

And their attitudes couldn’t be better, Lenoir said.

“They’re just so mature and so easy to deal with,” she said. “And at the same time, they’re so much fun.”

The trip to California marked the first time the entire Chugiak music department traveled together, Lenoir said. All three collaborated as two choir students performed with the orchestra, she said, and two band students accompanied the group during one of its pieces.

“It was really kind of neat to have the interaction between the three groups,” Lenoir said.

Traveling together is something Lenoir would like to see continued.

“I would love to do that again,” she said.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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