Twelve home-schooled musicians visit campus for annual competition.
By James Dusek
In practice rooms, hallways and corners of McAlister Fine Arts Center, high school students warmed their vocal chords and cleaned their instruments the morning of Jan. 14.
Junior Natalie Ramos watched The Emperor’s New Groove the night before, woke up late and ate a donut for breakfast. Getting as relaxed as possible is her new pre-performance ritual.
“It was just a really relaxing evening before and morning,” she said. “If I would’ve been all worked up, I wouldn’t have done as well or been as calm.”
Ramos and the 11 other musicians were all home-schoolers, preparing to participate in the “At Home With Music” competition. The competition judges would pick up to 10 of the most capable performers to receive scholarship prizes worth up to $250 and perform in an upcoming faculty concert Feb 9.
Voice Adjunct Becky Walker has organized the competition at this college for three years. While home schooling her own children, she noticed a lack of competitive opportunities for home-schoolers.
“When I used to teach private voice in public schools, they always had … opportunities for the students to kind of do a solo competition as a high-schooIer,” she said. “I knew that there was nothing like that for home-schoolers.”
Voice Adjunct Madeline Elizondo was one of three competition judges, and said the annual competition gives the students a unique opportunity for feedback.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for those who are in the homeschool community to get a chance to come out, perform and get some professionals in the community to hear them and get good feedback,” she said.
Sophomore Erin Guetzloe performed a piano “bravura” piece, a type of music specifically composed to demonstrate the performer’s skill.
She said she enjoys competitions like this one because they put pressure on her to practice.
“When I know that there’s this pressure of people are going to be watching you and you want to do well, then it forces me to practice harder,” she said.
Junior Lexi Lindsay said performing under pressure is great for adrenaline junkies like her. She comes from a family of musical Evel Knievels — her brother is the director and co-founder of the Homeschool Orchestra of South Texas, and all three of her siblings trained in music growing up.
“They get a big adrenaline rush whenever you walk on the stage,” she said. “It’s nerves, but it’s also excitement. It just frees you, whenever you play an instrument.”
Eight of the 12 performers, including Lindsay and Guetzloe, won a scholarship. All of them will perform Feb. 9 along with the Homeschool Orchestra of South Texas’s orchestra and jazz ensemble.
Daniel Walker, 14, also will perform at the concert, though he was not an official competitor for the scholarship prize because he was too young. The snare drummer participated in the event only for feedback from the judges, who were so impressed by his performance, they requested that he perform at the concert.
Many of the contestants spoke with one another in the hallways and practice rooms as they waited to perform. Lindsay said stereotypes that home-schooled students aren’t sociable are not always true.
“That’s a hoax,” she said. “Really, there are some kids who are a little bit more sheltered … But then again, there are public-schoolers who are also shy.”
Lindsay said she has made several good friends through the competition.