Steel City Turned Singing City


Kellen Smith and Sam Petkac pose at PMEA State Choir.

Faith Morrow , Editorial Board

   The Steelers. Andrew Carnegie. Innumerable bridges. Pittsburgh is generally tied to these iconic attributes but April 3-6 the steel city became the destination of senior Sam Petkac and sophomore Kellen Smith for the State Choir competitions.

    Bass 1, Petkac, and Bass 2, Smith, began this school year’s choir journey in districts with four other GMHS competitors: sophomore Abby Johnson, sophomore Aidan Michaelis, junior Faith Morrow, and senior Taylor Thomas. After placing well in districts, particularly Smith as second chair Bass 2, he and Petkac advanced with Morrow and Thomas to Regionals. There, Petkac placed exceptionally as third chair Bass 1 and the others also performed well, though only Petkac and Smith moved on to States.

   Hosted in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 64 Pennsylvania high schools competed. Students are told in holding rooms which measures of music (from two of seven potential songs) they will be asked to sing. With their sheet music given to them two weeks previous, students individually enter an audition room to be judged. Mr. Yates, GMHS choir director, explained, “the judging is blind… so they don’t see the person auditioning, all they can do is hear.” Pitch, intonation, pronunciation, diction, interpretation, and rhythmic accuracy are all factors of judging.

   “That was the worst audition I ever had because I had two days to prepare for the music and it just didn’t go well,” Petkac stated. Smith and Petkac participated in Broadway Dinner the week before states so they had very little time with their music. Despite their lack of practice, Smith placed 18th chair Bass 2 and Petkac placed 25th chair Bass 1, each out of 30 competitors.

   Unlike many other high school competitions where students are simply done if they perform poorly, a unique part of participating in PMEA choir is that even if one doesn’t place well, they still stay to create a concert to perform in a few days. “We had three two hour sessions a day… and then we had to have all our music memorized,” Petkac explained.

   Jerry Blackstone, Grammy Award winner, conducted the massive group of students this year. “The choir was absolutely magnificent,” Yates said. “The dynamic range of the group was just spectacular.” Songs like We Are The Music Makers, Skip To My Lou, and Ubi Caritas were performed.

   “Overall I was very very pleased with most everyone’s level of preparation, especially the students who attended regionals,” Yates said about this year’s GM competitors. “Even though some didn’t make it on to states, I still felt they represented themselves very well and were very well prepared which that to me is the most important thing.”