This year the Augustana Choir does not include any freshmen, in contrast to the 13 freshmen accepted into the choir last year.
Augustana Choir director Paul Nesheim said out of the approximately 30 freshmen that auditioned, none were accepted, since “the upper-class singers came in and made a really strong showing.”
Nesheim said the choral directors consider balance, blend and experience when listening to an audition. They then select some individuals for callback auditions. If the students do not get positions in the Augustana Choir, they are offered positions in the Collegiate Chorale or Angelus.
“The process is really to pick the best for the Augustana Choir and the rest for the Collegiate Chorale and Angelus, which are two excellent groups in themselves,” senior Augustana Choir member Ellen Ferry said.
Ferry was accepted into the choir as one of two freshmen in 2011.
“It’s not impossible,” she said. “Really, they listen to your audition based on your background [and on] how the audition went, and then they put you where they think you’re going to do the best.”
Before joining the faculty at Augustana in 2012, Nesheim taught at institutions that did not allow freshmen in their top choirs.
“The programs had even more singers, so I think it was partly the numbers,” he said. “And they also had the philosophy that, when you come in as a freshman, you have a lot of things you are getting used to, and the top choir can be a big commitment.”
Nesheim said he’s open to other possibilities for the choir.
“I think if we get to the point where we have more freshmen it could make sense to have an all-freshmen ensemble, but it’s too early to make any decisions like that.”
Senior choir member Hanna Werling was not accepted into the Augustana Choir her freshmen year.
“I appreciate choir so much more [now] and hold myself to a higher standard both during rehearsals and performances,” she said. “The reason for that is because we do have a more of a time commitment with rehearsals and a few more performances.”
The choir directors do not plan on changing the tradition of having freshmen in the Augustana Choir, according to Nesheim.
“Since we happen to have a new situation this year, we’ll see how things play out.”