The Arvada West High School Vocal Showcase was named the 2017-18 winner of The American Prize in Choral Performance in the high school division. “I would say that any accolades that come our way …
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The Arvada West High School Vocal Showcase was named the 2017-18 winner of The American Prize in Choral Performance in the high school division.
“I would say that any accolades that come our way are just a reflection of the dedication our students have to our choir department,” said choral director Chris Maunu, of winning the honor. “They are a wonderful group of students and I’m fortunate to work with them everyday.”
The American Prize, founded in 2009, is a series of new, nonprofit, competitions designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings. The Arvada West Vocal Showcase was selected from hundreds of applications reviewed from all across the United States.
“Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps ever even be nominated,” said David Katz is the chief judge of The American Prize. “But that does not mean that they are not worthy of recognition and reward. Quality in the arts is not limited to the costs, or to the familiar names, or only to graduates of a few schools. It is on view all over the United States, if you take the time to look for it. The American Prize exists to encourage and herald that excellence.”
Vocal Showcase is the top performing choir at Arvada West. The top 24 females and 24 males in a department of 340 students are selected to be a part of the choir after a rigorous audition process. Music literacy and overall musicianship is a key factor for membership in the ensemble.
Maunu submitted 30 minutes of audio recordings of Vocal Showcase performances from the past several years. A blind audition committee of distinguished adjudicators then evaluated the recordings and selected nine semi-finalists, seven finalists, and finally winners and runners up.
“When they announced us as one of nine semi finalists, I was thrilled by that,” Maunu said. “When we got the call that we won, I was just shocked and humbled.”
The group was judged on vocal tone, intonation, difficulty of repertoire, and artistic execution.
The Vocal Showcase has earned national recognition previously as well. They were one of three high school mixed choirs in the United States invited to perform at the 2017 National American Choral Directors Association Conference, the most prestigious performance invitation in the United States.
Maunu has also received national recognition. He was one of 10 national finalists for the Music Educator Award at the 60th GRAMMY Awards this past January.
“Mr. Maunu is probably the best teachers I’ve ever had,” said Alexis Rolfson, 18, a member of the Vocal Showcase and recent graduate from Arvada West. “He’s really passionate and really knows what he’s doing. I really trusted him and I knew that he was leading us in the right direction.”
Rolfson participated in choir all four years of high school and was a soloist on two of the seven pieced submitted for the contest.
“I was really surprised because he didn’t tell us he had entered us until we made the semi finals,” Rolfson said of her choir winning the award. “Mr. Maunu really humble about it but he goes for all these opportunities. I was really excited because he’s worked so hard and us as a choir has worked so hard. He deserved the recognition.”
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