SHS performers shine
Salem High School performers are proving they have what it takes to succeed under pressure. On Nov. 7, the school’s band, choir and theatre students took to their various stages, at three different locations, and brought home honors their Spartan community can be proud of.
Theatre students travelled to William Byrd High School for the River Ridge Conference Theatre Festival, where they performed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” They beat Pulaski and William Byrd High School to become Conference 24 champions, and will advance to the regional competition on Nov. 21. Salem’s Emma Studtmann was awarded actor of the day.
“In theatre, you can’t really be like track, where you just see who is the first to cross the line,” said Rachel Sailer, Salem’s theatre instructor. “It’s all objective.”
Sailer added that another reason this year’s competition was special is because the show had a student director, Ben Kennedy.
On the same day, choir students travelled to Lord Botetourt High School to audition for all-district. Each student had to prepare a song ahead of time and sight read four measures of music. For the first time in Kristi Vernon’s teaching career, every one of her students who auditioned made the cut, and half of them placed in the top eight, which is an impressive feat, considering there were well over 100 students who auditioned.
“Ten doesn’t seem like a lot, but there are so many things kids are involved in now that not all of them can commit,” Vernon said. “It was significant to me because I had 100 percent make it.”
Those students include: Claire Mitchell, Lily Butler, Ashby Garst, Heather Milberger, Sacha Brown, Rylee Ward, Tyler Jackins, Carrington Gardner, Adam Pierce and Noah Sherman.
In February, juniors and seniors who made all-district can audition for all-state. The auditions will be held at Blacksburg High School.
The choir will be performing in Salem’s Gingerbread Festival on Dec. 5 at noon.
The band travelled to North Davidson High School in Lexington, N.C. to perform in their final competition of the year. Though rain caused the competition to move indoors to the gym, presenting a new set of challenges, their performance wasn’t a washout.
“It was totally different,” Wilkes said. “We went into a gym having never really practiced that scenario, and the kids really stepped it up.”
Salem, which was in class 5A, placed second in the competition, and overall, placed third out of 20, ending their season on a high note.
“It was a good year,” Wilkes said. “Out of the year and all of our competitions, only five bands outscored us.”
The band’s last performance of the year will be at the Stagg Bowl in December.
Sailer, Wilkes and Vernon agree that it is a good thing they work well together, as they share many of the same students.
“We communicate well with each other,” Wilkes said. “That’s the key. We have to, because the kids who participate in all three are so good, we need them.”
Though scheduling can be complex, they agree that working together is one of the most rewarding aspects of their jobs, especially when they can combine talents on a project. They will do just that for their spring performance of “The Wizard of Oz” March 10-12, as the choir and band will join theatre students for the production. Auditions will begin in December, and they will practice well over two months.
According to Sailer and Vernon, the impact performing arts can have on a student’s life makes their time well spent, providing confidence and important life skills for down the road.
“When you can speak well, it just tends to to be of great service at interviews and job presentations,” Sailer said.
“There’s lots of skills that you can learn that can translate to any field, really,” Vernon added. “I know it’s hard. I know they have to make sacrifices to take these electives, but they do it because they don’t want to give up the arts.”