Angel Tolbert

Temple High School senior Angel Tolbert performs with the school’s jazz band, the Highlighters, during a trip to the Jazz Education Network Conference in New Orleans in January.  Tolbert had to catch a flight from New Orleans back to Texas in order to try out for the TMEA All-State Choir. She had a successful tryout and received eighth chair in the treble choir.

The first weekend in January was a busy time for Temple High School senior, Angel Tolbert.

After traveling to New Orleans with the jazz band and performing at the eighth annual Jazz Education Network conference, Tolbert immediately flew back to Texas to participate in auditions for Texas All-State Choir the next day.

Tolbert said music has always been a part of her life.

 “Because of my family and our background, I’ve always been involved in music, but I didn’t get into choir until my second semester of sixth grade,” she said.

Tolbert said her whole family sings and plays instruments. She said she has always been involved in church choir. At school, she is a member of Meistersingers, the varsity mixed choir, and Polyfoniks.

She is also the vocalist for the Highlighters, who were scheduled to perform at the JEN conference in New Orleans Friday, Jan. 6.

Tolbert’s choir audition was the next day at Midway High School in Waco.

She said she was nervous about traveling with the jazz band, because she didn’t know if she would make it back for her audition, but she was also excited about her first trip to New Orleans.

She rode with the band to Louisiana Thursday morning, performed Friday morning, then headed to the airport.

Despite a lost wallet and a bit of confusion with her boarding pass, she flew from New Orleans to Houston, and then caught a connecting flight to Austin. It was her first time flying by herself. Tolbert said she used the time waiting for her flights and for her ride to practice her audition music, which she had downloaded on her phone.

Her audition took place the next day.

Tolbert said she was so nervous she was shaking while waiting to perform.

After warming up with her section, she waited until her number was called for her first audition, which was performed before five anonymous judges who couldn’t see her.

 “So you walk in, you see a big black tarp and a stand in front of it,” she said. “And that’s it.”

Tolbert said the room is completely silent, other than the sound of one of the judges pressing the “play” button on a CD player to start the accompaniment. She said once the music starts, you only have one chance to get it right.

After everyone completed the first audition, the students moved on to a sight-reading audition. Tolbert said the first time everyone sees that piece of music is when they walk into the audition room. She said she had about 30 seconds to look over the selection before she had to perform it.

Once all of the auditions were complete, the All-State alternates and chairs were announced.

Tolbert made eighth chair in the All-State Treble Choir.

“I was shaking,” she said. “When they called my name (the directors) didn’t know whether or not that I heard them.”

Cameron Roucloux, THS choir director, said being named to All-State is the highest musical honor a student can receive.

He explained that the state is divided into Areas and auditions are conducted by Region, pre-Area, then Area. Roucloux said Temple is included in an Area that encompasses a large number of schools with outstanding choir programs.    

“So for her to be one of the top eight people within her voice part in this Area was really something,” he said. “There are some Areas that are stronger than others. I think our Area is one of the most competitive Areas in the state.”

He said there is a very small margin for error at the All-State Level, especially when it comes to sight reading.

“We’re just really proud of the work she’s done and the way that she represents our choir program through not only her music ability and how hard she works, but as a person… every kid that comes in here, we want them to have the kind of qualities that Angel has,” Roucloux said.

Samuel Davis, THS assistant choir director, said thousands of students begin the audition process. Eventually it gets filtered down to a couple hundred who actually make All-State. Davis said the students have to learn extremely difficult choral repertoire for their auditions, in addition to the sight-reading.

“So it’s a very comprehensive test, and only the best rise to the top, like Angel,” he said.

Tolbert will perform with the All-State Treble Choir during the Texas Music Educators Association convention in San Antonio Saturday, Feb. 11.

She said she wanted to thank her directors and a past teacher.

 “They helped me understand how important it was to actually practice… because they knew how bad I wanted it, but I didn’t necessarily know how hard it was going to be to get it,” she said. “So they helped me understand that process, and they believed in me. It just brought me over the edge.”