Cleburne High School choir

These members of the Cleburne High School Choir provided noteworthy performances in being selected for the Texas Music Educators Association Ninth- and Tenth-Grade Honor Choir. Front row, from left, are Antonio Quiroz, Snow Wariment, Janna West, Baylee Kelly, Emma Botkin and Braeden Carlton. Back row, from left, are Ivan Martinez, Xander Ballew, Damson Chola, Diego Villalovos and Gregory Coplan. Not pictured is Airon Street. 

Members of the Cleburne High School Choir provided noteworthy performances in their selection for the Texas Music Educators Association Ninth- and Tenth-Grade Honor Choir, following auditions.

Awarded second chair among the competing tenors was freshman tenor Xander Ballew, along with Damson Chola Jr., second chair bass. Fellow sophomore Emma Botkin sang her way into selection for the TMEA District Treble Choir.

Cleburne Honor Choir members also include Janna West, Baylee Kelly, Snow Wariment, Braeden Carlton, Airon Street, Ivan Martinez, Gregory Coplan, Anthony Quiroz and Diego Villalovos. 

“It was great to be back to in-person auditions this year,” Choir Director Weslee Vance said. “It was a different feel in sending recorded auditions last year. I think both students and directors have missed that ‘community’ feeling in being together at tryouts — it just has more energy.

“It’s fantastic to have two of our students ranked at the top of their section, especially this early in their high school choir journey. That reflects a bright future for them, and for our program. This taste of competition was great for all our students that went through the audition process, in seeing what they can do and strive to achieve.”

Ballew, who participated in middle school choir, said the opportunity to compete with students who are also new to the high school level of performance appealed to him.

“I just wanted to give it a try,” he said. “It appealed to me that I would only be competing with ninth- and 10-graders. I’ve got some growing to do in my vocal skills. I’ve always enjoyed singing and am a member of my church’s youth choir. This was definitely a great introduction to what I’m going to be able to do in high school choir.”

Chola has been giving his vocal talents a workout as a choir competitor and in his role of the Cowardly Lion in the CHS musical production (MUNY version) of the “Wizard of Oz,” to be presented in evening performances beginning Dec. 9. 

“Mr. Vance encouraged me to try out,” Chola said. “This was my first choir audition, as I wasn’t in choir in middle school. I worked on the music, but I didn’t expect to get second chair. It was great to see Xander make second chair as well. There were over 500 kids at the auditions from different schools.

“I wasn’t sure about choir, being so involved in theater arts, but I plan to stay with it. It’s definitely a great way to improve in my vocal skills. I’m determined to get better and expand in my range. I also sing at church. Everyone in my family — including our family in Zambia — enjoys singing.”

Botkin described her selection for the TMEA District Treble Choir as “pretty shocking.” Botkin achieved All-Region Middle School Choir recognition as a seventh- and eighth-grader.

“I didn’t have the audition experience as a freshman,” she said. “I knew this was a lot like the process in middle school — but at a higher level. I always try to give my best, and I felt it went that way in the audition. I hope this is the beginning to what may come — but I need to continue to improve. 

“I want to make the all-area choir next year, and it would be wonderful to make all-state. I grew up in a musical family and fell in love with choir when I was in the fourth grade at Marti Elementary."

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