38 eighth-graders earn two 100 percent scores at a Seattle music festival

The members of the Athey Creek Middle School Select Choir pulled off an impressive feat at a Seattle music festival on June 1. The 38-student choir’s performance at the Music in the Park festival was so impressive that two judges awarded the choir perfect scores, an almost unheard-of accomplishment.

Choir director Barbara Vardanega has worked for 18 years as the school’s drama teacher and choir director, and she is no stranger to music competitions.

“I’ve never had a choir get 100 percent,” she said. “As a judge, I’ve only given 100 once in my whole career.”

Festivals like Music in the Park allow attendees to choose whether to attend in competitive or noncompetitive categories. Vardanega said that she normally avoids entering her middle school choir into competition.

“I have a hard time with music judging, because it’s so subjective,” Vardanega said. “I don’t normally set my choir up for competition. But they did really well last year (at Music in the Park), so I said, ‘What the heck.’ To have them come out with 100 percent is such an amazing accomplishment. ... It was really rewarding to see the kids’ hard work pay off that way.”

The choir’s weekend trip to Seattle was rewarding in other ways. The young singers’ itinerary included a visit to Ballou Junior High School in Puyallup, Wash., on Friday. Vardanega’s middle school choir has visited Ballou for each of the past 18 years.

“We sing for their choir and they sing for us,” she said.

On Saturday, the choir performed at Tacoma’s Stadium High School, known to many of the Athey students as a setting for the movie, “10 Things I Hate About You.” Other students, however, took one look at the school’s brick walls and towers and formed a different movie connection.

“Students kept saying, ‘It looks just like Hogwarts!’” of Harry Potter fame, Vardanega said. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Members of Athey Creeks Select Choir pose outside Stadium High School in Tacoma.

“When we got into the performing space, it was the most magical, moving musical thing we’d ever done,” she said. “They sounded so amazing. You could just see it on the kids’ faces. Each face was engaged; they were making music like a unit.”

Following their performance, the students spent the afternoon having fun at a water park in Federal Way. The joy of that experience may take second place in students’ memories, though.

“To then go back to the awards assembly and hear how well we had done was amazing,” Vardanega said. “To have them come out with 100 percent is such an amazing accomplishment.”

In addition to their two perfect scores, the choir received two awards: first place in the middle school mixed choir division and best overall choir, awarded to the best choir performing that day, regardless of division.

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