The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

Choir All-State Hits a High Note


On April 20, All-Virginia State choir, band, and orchestra performed at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Two Stone Bridge choir students, senior Manoela Mishima and junior Laasya Chevendra, participated in the three-day event. 

The choir program has long been a highlight of the school’s performing arts department as they’ve historically received superior ratings at assessments and had several students attend All County, District, and State choirs over the years. This year, seniors Saoirse O’Hair and Drew Speier participated in the highly selective Senior Honors Choir, which only accepts 120 students from the entire state. Chevendra and Mishima’s participation in the All-Virginia Chorus further builds the department’s reputation. 

“My experience was amazing,” Chevendra said. “It was so refreshing to work with a new–[and] notably larger–group of singers who seem so genuinely passionate about what they do. That combined with the rigor of our director was super conductive to actually making good music, and moving beyond the surface level many sometimes feel they’re in.” 

The All-Virginia State choir practiced and performed from April 18 to April 20. Singers had the opportunity to watch performances from the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) choir and the Virginia State University (VSU) choir, and as a surprise performance, the choir directors from each student’s school also performed a rendition of “The Battle of Jericho,” which was rehearsed in secret under only two-hours. Additionally, the All-Virginia middle school treble and mixed choirs both performed for the participants, and the mixed choir sang an unreleased and unforgettable song titled, “Red Velvet Cake,” criticizing the idea of red velvet cake being overrated and instead arguing that “red velvet is chocolate cake who believes in itself.” 

“All-state was truly amazing,” Hickory High School (Chesapeake, VA) senior Ava Gorman, said. “I felt connected {and it was] as if we were all on the same page and the same musical level. It opened my perspective on how beautiful music really is.” 

The treble (soprano-alto) choir performed under the direction Dr. Pearl Shangkuan from Calvin University, singing five pieces including “La Li Lei,” from composer Tracey Wong. The piece was especially significant to the singers since they would be the first choir to ever sing the composition to a live audience, and they even had the opportunity to meet and talk with Wong during rehearsals. 

“My director did what she called ‘airbrushing,’ in which she moved singers around based on the ‘color’ of their voice,” Chevendra said. “It made me cognizant of how important things like blending are, modulating your tone not just to the song but to those around you.” 

The mixed (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) choir performed under the direction of Jason Max Ferdinand from the University of Maryland. The group sang five pieces, one of them being a thirteen minute rendition of “The Chariot Jubilee,” an oratorio by Nathaniel Dett. Director Ferdinand is most notably recognized by his work with the Jason Max Ferdinand Singers and with musician Jacob Collier. 

“Dr. Ferdinand brought a whole different level of directing to [the] group,” Colgan High School Center for the Fine Arts and Performing Arts (Manassas VA) senior Alyssa Kiffer, said. “We got extremely nuanced [analysis of] each little factor of the music and dug into the specific reasons why the composer may have written different chords [and] note patterns the way they did. Definitely my favorite part was when [he] told us comical stories about his childhood to remember certain musical techniques. Overall, we brought a unique and detail-oriented energy to every one of our pieces that only could have been achieved through such a passionate and focused conductor.”

My experience was amazing. It was so refreshing to work with a new–[and] notably larger–group of singers who seem so genuinely passionate about what they do.

— Laasya Chevandra

More than three hundred singers were present in the choruses combined, all coming from distinct and varied parts of the state. Shared meals and activities such as karaoke and a late-night dance party-slash-student-social contributed to the formation of friendships between students from distant areas. The overall consensus seemed to be that All-State was not only the birthplace of choirs of tremendous caliber, but also of friendships that won´’t be forgotten. 

“I connected with the people at All-State more than I have with anyone else,” Hickory High School (Chesapeake VA) junior Trista Coltellino said. “Every time I’d talk to someone new, they didn’t feel like a stranger. Karaoke was a blast, [and] the student social was amazing. My favorite part was that there were no cliques; if you wanted to dance with a group of people, they welcomed you right in.” 

About the Contributor
Manu Mishima
Manu Mishima, Staff Writer
Manu Mishima is a senior and first-year writer for the "Bulldog Tribune". She is an officer for the Progressives for the Future and National English Honor Society, and participates in both choir and theater. To her, the "New Yorker" cartoons are the epitome of comedy. In her spare time, Manu reads park-bench dedications, books, and movie subtitles.