Eleven Students Performing in All-State and All-Northwest Choirs This Weekend; 27 Students Preparing for State Competition in April

Centralia High School Choir Students Achieve Regional Success


When 13 of her Centralia High School choir students auditioned for the prestigious All-State and All-Northwest choirs in October, choir director Lauri Johnson expected only a handful of them to be accepted. 

The auditions themselves were a strenuous process, involving weeks of rehearsals and recordings before and after school. 

“Hours, I’m talking hours. … I would start at 2:35 p.m. when school gets out and I go from 2:35 to 6 p.m. every day, and then some of the kids who had volleyball or soccer after school, they would meet me here early in the morning. … 6 o’clock in the morning, we’d sing for 40 minutes and then my first class starts at 6:40,” Johnson said. 

She was teaching when the Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA) sent out acceptance notifications in November, she recalled. 

“I’m teaching and these notifications keep popping up and I’m like, ‘are they sending me the same one? I think there’s a glitch,’” she said. 

There wasn’t. Eleven Centralia High School choir students had been accepted from a pool of nearly 1,600 applicants in Washington and nearly 3,000 applicants from the Pacific Northwest region. 

Those students will travel to Bellevue this weekend to rehearse and perform alongside choir students from across the Pacific Northwest under the direction of world-renowned conductors. 

“Many professional musicians credit their (All-State/All-Northwest) experience as crucial to their decision to choose music as a career. Thousands of others whose career paths took them in different directions have great memories of participating in this inspiring and musical experience and claim it was a life-changing experience for them,” wrote WMEA in a news release. 

Johnson recalled gathering the students in a circle in the Centralia High School cafeteria in November to announce the news. 

“I started naming the people that made it and they go, ‘Wait a minute, Ms. Johnson, are you naming the people that didn’t make it? And I go, ‘No,’ and then they were just astounded,” Johnson said. “They are all best friends. They just love being together, so it’s going to be great.” 

Seven students were accepted into the All-State Symphonic Choir: seniors Alyssa Graves, Tom Dean, Taydom Baker and Levi Johnson, junior Felix Haygan, sophomore Beck Geringer and freshman Alika Vargas. 

Those students will join a choir of about 200 Washington student singers for a single performance in Bellevue on Friday. “It’s a very, very important performance. They will record it and (the students) can get recordings from it,” Johnson said. 

Four students were accepted into All-Northwest choirs, which includes singers from Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming. 

“It’s a harder competition,” Johnson said of the All-Northwest choirs. “All these kids get thrown into a big pot and then (the judges) are going ‘wow, this kid is definitely a contender.’” 

Three students, senior Sydney Darling and juniors Ellie Buzzard and Madelyn Piepgras, were accepted into the All-Northwest Treble Choir. Paige Watt, a junior, was accepted into the All-Northwest Mixed Choir. 

Those choirs will perform Saturday night. 

The 11 students going to Bellevue this weekend won’t have time to rest on their laurels when they return to school on Monday, however, as they are among the 27 Centralia High School choir students who qualified for state following a regional choir competition last weekend. 

The Lady Tigers, Tiger Quad Squad, Tiger Men and Singing Sisters ensembles all scored within the top three of their respective categories on Saturday, earning them a place in the state competition in Ellensburg on April 28. In addition, Piepgras, Dean, Johnson, Grave and Buzzard also qualified for state as soloists. 

“They just did amazing,” Johnson said of their regional performances. “I mean, this is just to say, the program is alive and well.” 

This year marks Johnson’s 35th as a teacher, her 22nd in the Centralia School District. 

“I kind of know how to get them to the finish line,” she said, “and if I don’t think they’re going to be contenders, by God, I’m going to work my butt off until they are.”