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High honors for low notes: Northwest High School senior to perform in state choir

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Forget the old adage. For Roarke McKinzie of Aurora, a fourth time was the charm.

After coming up short for three years, the Northwest High School senior qualified this year to perform with the Texas All-State Choir for the first time.

The concert will be a part of the 2014 Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Clinic/Convention at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio this weekend.

All State Singer

ALL-STATE SINGER – Northwest High School senior Roarke McKinzie of Aurora will perform with the Texas All-State Choir at the Texas Music Educators Association Clinic/Convention this weekend in San Antonio. To qualify, McKinzie landed in the top at district, regional, pre-area and area competition, which began in September. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I’ve been trying for four years,” McKinzie said. “The more years I was in choir, the more I got to see more things and learn more things and discover different things that looked interesting. All-State Choir was one of those things.

“My goal was to make the choir because it would make me a better musician and singer.”

McKinzie is a bass, the lowest male vocal range. He underwent a lengthy, competitive process for the honor, which is considered the highest a Texas music student can receive.

It begins with district auditions in September and regional competition in October.

“We go in and read the pieces we’ve been studying, and the judges score us on all of that,” McKinzie said. “They compare the scores to the others, and they take the top 16 to the next round.”

In the pre-area round in November, students receive four new pieces of music. They undergo the same process where they perform and judges rank their performance.

“They only take five for that round for area,” McKinzie said. “After that one, we move onto the final round, which is the round that decides if you’re going to be in the (All-State) choir or not.”

For area competition in January, students perform the same pieces from the previous round, and the top eight advance – the top four make the mixed choir while fifth through eighth are placed in the men’s choir.

“I was third, so I’m in the mixed choir,” McKinzie said.

McKinzie and his choir director, Kaitlyn Carty, will leave for San Antonio today (Wednesday). As a member of the All-State choir, McKinzie will participate in three days of rehearsals directed by nationally recognized conductors during the clinic/convention.

“There’s going to be other choirs there from all over the state,” McKinzie said. “I get to see college choirs. I get to see college professors. We get to see bands perform, and we actually get to perform a band piece with them.”

Saturday, he will sing with the best choir he’ll ever be part of.

“I’m really excited to go,” he said. “This is a really really big thing, in any state. It’s prestigious. It’s like winning that championship trophy for a sports event for choir.”

McKinzie has been in choir since sixth grade and has taken private voice lessons with Joel Pyron at the Fine Arts Academy at First Baptist Church in Keller since seventh grade.

“I’ve always had an inclination to sing,” McKinzie said. “But it wasn’t until these last couple of years that I’ve really taken on choir … I never really looked at it as something past high school, pursuing career-wise. I’d sing in the college choir, most likely, but that was it.

“It’s definitely something I see myself pursuing now.”

McKinzie plans to attend the University of Oklahoma next fall to study meteorology.

“That has always been a fascination, and I wanted to pick a college based on that,” McKinzie said. “For me, it didn’t matter where I went for music. I wanted to focus more on meteorology. But I do want to do something in music – may it be vocal, may it be composition, which is actually writing a musical piece, or maybe even do music education, learn how to be a music director.”

He credits that to his success and the influence of his mentors.

“I’m really getting into music,” McKinzie said. “I’m really liking this a lot, more than I ever have, and I think it’s because of my accomplishments and the impact of my voice lessons director (Mr. Pyron) and the three directors I’ve had while at this school – Victoria Jones, Jason Sneed, Kaitlyn Carty.

“They’ve all helped with that.”

His current director credits his leadership and work ethic.

“He’s really focused, talented and intelligent; it is no surprise,” Carty said. “Texas is one of the best in the nation because Texas has such strong programs. It makes the honor that much more prestigious.”

Roarke is the son of Pam and Phil McKinzie.

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