All the right notes

Amberly Schell earns All-State first chair


Olivia Davenport, Staff Writer

Choir isn’t just singing a few songs for parents during Christmas. Just like volleyball, band, colorguard and cheer, they compete. At this year’s UIL All-State competition, sophomore Amberly Schell made first chair in the Soprano 2 group, which came as a surprise. 

“Honestly I thought I would at most get a lower chair, like sixth, if I was lucky,” she said. “I was really surprised when I got first chair.” 

As long as choir director Melanie Coons has been at Rider, a Soprano 2 has never been first chair. Coons listed multiple reasons why Schell’s accomplishment was so impressive. 

“The soprano rooms are always more competitive, and as long as Mrs. Cook and I have been here, which is around six years, we have never had a soprano make all-state choir,” Coons said. “The second part is that being a sophomore and making it doesn’t happen often.” 

Coons also pointed out it typically takes more years of preparation and development on one’s voice. Schell is also believed to be the first sophomore girl to make all-state choir. 

All-State choir is a rigorous competition, with over 50,000 students initially entered in different areas of musical expertise. Students first compete at district, where 12 from each group are selected. They then move on to region, where it is narrowed down to seven then area where the six chairs are named, first being the highest. 

As the trend of every event this year, COVID made some changes to the competition. There is usually a sight reading element, where contestants are given a sheet of music they have never seen before and must sing it, but that was removed this year. Secondly, instead of performing in front of a panel of judges live with a single try, students videoed their auditions, which they could record as many times as they wanted within a five-day period. 

The lack of sight reading concerned Coons. “We thought that was gonna hurt her, losing the sight reading part since she’s really good at that,” she said. 

However, Amberley was relieved about the absence of sight reading. “Personally, it made it easier because sight reading is really difficult and I get really anxious,” Schell said. “I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten first chair if we had sight reading.”

However, she disliked that lack of a one-time, in-person performance. “I’m a perfectionist and it’s really difficult to choose what you’re happy with,” she said. 

Schell wasn’t the only Rider student to earn recognition at this competition. Senior Maranda Rose-Adame, who came in as an alternate, did the entire process at home by herself. 

“She learned the music by herself, recorded by herself and only missed being in all-state choir by one chair,” Coons said. “It was really hard to make sure they (at-home contestants) were prepared when they aren’t in class with us.”