By Drew Sutherland ’21
“I need your health form or you’re out of here in an hour.” Those were the first words said to me when rehearsal started on Thursday morning by one of the people in charge of the festival. I’ll call him Nice Guy, since he kept repeating the phrase, “But I’m a nice guy!” during his half hour lecture when we first arrived, in between yelling at us about what rules kids have broken in the past, including ordering an extra bed to a room that had four people and two beds. On that topic, my room luckily had only three people rather than the usual four, one of which spent the whole doing calculus and physics homework, rather than rehearsing. I had to sleep on a chair, with my feet up on a large pile of pillows. It was quite an amusing sight.
This was my second All State experience, the first of which was much better for various reasons, which I will get to later on. Anyway, back to this one. The grudge I had against Nice Guy grew exponentially as the experience went on. I later found out that I was not the only one to dislike him, as various memes were made about him and posted on an All State Snapchat story. The one that got the most attention was a picture of Nice Guy with a very inappropriate caption I am not even going to mention because it would get me sent to DOS if it were printed. The kid who posted that later got sent home, and I later found out, is also being sued, if that email I “accidentally” saw was correct. After finding out that a mistake was made, I was luckily able to stay!
The general idea of the All State festival is the 530 best musicians, and maybe some kids who got in because their directors ran it, rehearsing for upwards of seven hours a day for three days, culminating a final concert. In this concert, the Orchestra, Band, Jazz Band, Mixed Choir and Treble Choir all perform roughly five pieces. I was a member of the Mixed Choir, which had both girls and boys. The Orchestra and Band performed after us, and I was hungry, so I had my parents get me out of there as quickly as possible so A) I could get back to school on time and B) the state wouldn’t realize that I had “permanently borrowed” the music.
Now I’ll explain last year, and make a Venn Diagram comparing the years if I can figure out how. Update: I did not figure out how to create a Venn Diagram. I’ll begin with context: last year, I went to two schools, a normal and boring public school, and ACES ECA in the afternoon. Everyday, I would leave school at noon and have an unmarked white van drive me an hour to the Yale campus, where ECA was located. ECA stands for the Educational Center for the Arts, and has a large number of students who all love theatre, dance, music, painting or writing. Every afternoon, all of us would take classes for three hours on our interests. I auditioned and, not meaning to flex, received the highest score in the region for my voice part. Only me and two other vocalists made it to All States from ECA last year, but a large number made it from my public school.
On the first day last year, I introduced them all and all of us had an amazing time. Though the first night, the boy from my school, let’s call him Avaz, began to flirt with two girls and invited them to our table. Everyone was mad at him for the rest of the weekend, because these girls only talked about the weirdest things, things I don’t want to repeat, or even think about for that matter. This year, I saw one of the girls, and pretended I didn’t recognize her. I did not want to deal with that agony again. Avaz had graduated, but the other kids that were there last year recognized her too, and then began to start blaming ME for the whole affair. It was his fault, he was the one flirting with them. Well, mostly him.
Every night of last year, they would host a special event. These were fun, like watching a movie, or having the UCONN Jazz Band come, and having all 530 kids dancing uncontrollably. This year, the events were still interesting, but nowhere near as fun. A group called Project Trio performed, they were good. The flutist was amazing, as he would be playing the flute with only one hand perfectly… while beatboxing! That had me astounded. The next night, another jazz group from UCONN performed, but sadly, we were forced to stay sitting in our assigned seats. The person sitting next to me thought it would be funny to dance in his chair, and clap at random points during the songs. After every clap, there would be a flurry of “shhh” flying towards him. He, of course, would then point at me. I love teenagers!
Back to my group. We performed five pieces in the concert. An Italian Madrigal (Troubadours Vocab!) about a swan dying, a song from a musical that we world premiered, a Psalm translated into German, a gospel piece and an arrangement of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka.
Our director was extremely full of herself. Four out of the five songs had her name on them in one way or another, whether she “edited” it, or it was written for her. To give an example, in a single hour, she told us that she performed for Prince Charles not once, not twice, not three times, but four times. It was very common for her to stop rehearsal and talk about her father who was an Olympic silver medalist, or her son who apparently has the “most interesting brain in the entire world.” She said that. Multiple times. Per day.
She also had very strong opinions, one of which I was personally offended by. She went on a five minute rant about how awful Anglicans are. I am an Anglican, and was quite offended by her statement that they “have no muscles in their arms” and that she assumes “some of them are okay.”
Another interesting experience was that the person I was standing next to fell asleep standing. I had to catch his music when he dropped it. The absolute worst part of the whole festival, though, was that my name tag said my name, Andrew, on it. Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not like to be called Andrew and much prefer Drew. So when everyone was out there calling me Andrew, I was not happy.
Despite the sarcastic nature of this piece and the comments I have made about people, going to the festival was really important to me, and I feel glad to have had the opportunity. It was a wonderful experience to be around people almost, ALMOST, as nerdy about music as I am. I love to talk about the nerdiest music topics, especially with other music nerds. I have been singing in choirs full time since I was 5, and I went professional at 8. I stayed pro until coming to The Gunnery, when I had to give it up. To end, I’ll say what our director said before we went out to perform: ‘I’m just expecting one thing: NO MISTAKES!’