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Students perform at District Solo and Ensemble Festival held at Bessemer

BESSEMER - The A.D. Johnson Junior-Senior High School in Bessemer was flooded with the sound of music on Saturday morning, as roughly 50 students competed in the District Solo and Ensemble Festival.

The students, who represented both the Bessemer Area School District and the Ironwood Area School District performed various solo and ensemble pieces for both band and choir.

The students performed one or two selections and then received feedback from Dale Smith, of the Wisconsin School Music Association, who judged their performance. According to Josh Kepich, ADJ band instructor, Smith taught band for 20 years in Merrill, Wisconsin.

"The purpose of the event is to give students the opportunity to perform solo and get feedback from someone other than the teacher they see every day," said Kepich. He said the top performers advanced to the state competition.

This was the first year the district competition was held in Bessemer. In years past it has been held at Ironwood and Hurley school districts. Hurley students were originally scheduled to compete as well, but withdrew from the event after the Hurley basketball team made it to the state competition, drawing a large portion of the student body to Madison this past weekend. According to Kepich, those students will compete at at a later date.

Of the 14 performances, three groups won the right to compete at the state competition. The three groups representing the Ironwood Area Schools that will go to state are: the Accent choir, solo saxophonist Marissa Ritter, and a clarinet quartet comprised of Michael Mieloszyk, Dahlia Sackmann, Lucia Lauzon and Nathan Jaunzems.

"Accent earned a one-star rating, qualifying them for the state festival in Stevens Point. In order to qualify for state, a soloist or ensemble must perform music from the class A list and score 95% or higher. Luther L. Wright High School is a class D school, which makes the achievement that much more impressive," said Darin Schmidt, Accent choir director.

Kepich said he was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who came out to hear and support the students. He said that they were not expecting so many people as an audience to come out so early on a Saturday morning.

"For our first year hosting, it went pretty well. Every event got a Superior or Excellent rating," he said. "Overall, it was a just a really fun day of music making."

The state competition will be held in Stevens Point on May 6-7. Schmidt said that the students will also perform these pieces at Accent's Spring Showcase concert on May 14 at the Historic Ironwood Theatre.

The Bessemer students will present their selections during the spring choir concert on April 26 and their spring band concert on May 20.

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