The results are in: Clarke students ROCK! With extracurricular activities back in full swing, the Clarke students proved that discipline, creativity, teamwork and a whole lot of community support make a world of difference in every aspect of student life outside their academic classrooms.
“We had an amazing winter,” said Dr. Alan Dykens, Clarke Schools Superintendent. “Our teachers, students, and community were all firing in sync and it really showed how working as ONE-TRIBE wins across the gamut.”
The “Gamut” Dr. Dykens refers to is the variety of extracurricular activities the Clarke students participated in over the winter months. No matter how cold it was outside the halls of Clarke Community Schools, the students kept extracurricular activities sizzling-hot, bringing home awards and accolades from speech, theater, band, and choir.
For the 2022-23 performance season, Clarke speech and theater students will have, in total, participated in more than a dozen competitions. These competitions start right before the 2022 holiday break and take groups and individual competitors across the state including the IHSSA All-State competitions at the University of Northern Iowa.
The Clarke Speech and Drama students participate within three unique organizations: IHSSA, National Speech and Debate Association, and Iowa Forensic League. The three disciplines cover a wide range of theater and drama, including speech and musical theater.
Quite a few students participated in State large group in February with Clarke scoring high across all entries. A highlight of the event was the group performance from Sweeney Todd, one of Broadway’s most acclaimed – and more difficult – musical theater pieces. The Clarke team qualified with a “Division 1” score for IHSSA All-State – a milestone first in Clarke’s history. As an added honor, the group was chosen to sing The National Anthem at the All-State opening ceremonies.
Students who participated in the Sweeney Todd piece included: Cal Lundquist, Skye Williams, Molly Sickels, Keira McLain, Bryce Johnson, and Marquaize Coughran.
Clarke also scored seven National Qualifiers (Nat Quals) across five events at EINSDA (Eastern Iowa National Speech and Debate Association). This was the best turnout ever for Clarke at this event and against much larger schools including Iowa City West and Bettendorf. Clarke’s “Nat Quals” included 4th place, 3rd place, and 2nd place finishes in the duo competitions as well as a 2nd place solo finish. Two members also took home both 1st place as a duo and individual 1st place finishes. The Clarke team, as a whole, took 2nd place overall in the event’s Speech Sweepstakes.
Other events include IFL state competition which was held at Simpson College. There, Clarke students took home the 3rd, 4th, and 5th place finishes as well as Cal Lundquist with the 1st Place, State championship. As part of the awards, Simpson gave a $2,000 annual scholarships to those who placed in the top 6 and a $3,000 scholarship is awarded to first place recipients.
At All-State on March 27th, two students qualified: Cal Lundquist qualified in both his acting and improvisational acting events and Johnathan Vega qualified in his solo acting event.
“So many participated, it’s hard to call out one outstanding performance,” said Don May, Clarke’s Speech and Drama Teacher. “Their teamwork, enthusiasm, and dedication are what really stood out to the judges.”
With more than 62 students in the Clarke High School bands, many opportunities for outstanding performances were realized over the season. From honor band, jazz and concert bands as well as pep band, the students were able to perform and compete across a diverse selection of events.
“One opportunity we really enjoyed was bringing alumni as well as the junior high students together with our pep band,” said band teacher, Karina Kelso. “Sharing the joy of performing across so many members of the Clarke family really underscored our community spirit.”
Outside exciting home performances by the jazz band and concert band, students also achieved accolades through three honor band opportunities and contests around the state.
In December, five Clarke students participated at Drake University in a two-day honor band. At the event, students were required to audition for ranked seating within the band. This showed the students the impact music had on a larger scale as well as the advantages of collaborating with hundreds of students from across the state while competing for positions. As a bonus, The students got to hear performances from one of Drake’s jazz bands as well as a Drake symphony band, providing outstanding exposure to performance opportunities available after high school.
In January, nine students participated at the South Central Conference Honor Band at Centerville High School in southeastern Iowa. This honor band includes students from around the conference in an event requiring players to learn, rehearse, and perform a set of music all within a single day. The students really enjoyed the condensed format of the event and performed very well amongst very strong players.
The Iowa State University honor band event, similar to the Drake, two-day event, brings together students from across the state as well as a handful from outside Iowa. Three Clarke band members participated in this event in February.
Clarke’s jazz band had two competitions. The SCIBA (South Central Iowa Bandmasters Association) event, held in the beginning of December, allowed students to get early season feedback from a collection of judges at a state level. That and a number of performances lead them to the State competition in January where the Clarke Jazz band performance earned a “Division 2” rating (out of 5) from the judges.
“The growth we saw from the jazz band between SCIBA and State was night and day,” said Kelso. “They really took to heart the direction and comments from the judges and played their hearts out at State.”
Some individual accomplishments seen within the band were from senior Cal Lundquist trombonist, receiving an award for his solo – performed on an instrument passed down from his mother who also played trombone in high school.
Leading into Spring, on March 25th, Clarke hosted the State Solo Ensemble Contest that included both band and choir competitions. With more than a half dozen schools in attendance, the event was a big opportunity for Clarke band and choir students, teachers, parents, and volunteers alike to come together to facilitate a successful event and make Clarke stand out amongst their peers.
As with other events, judges at the Solo Ensemble Contest score each schools’ performance on a 1 to 5 scale as well as a “Best of Center” award given to a group or individual that showed top talent and performances for the day. Clarke’s top scoring performances included a total of three “Division 1” ratings – a Freshman Trumpet solo by Emily Glenn, a sophomore trumpet solo by Emma Hendrickson, and a saxophone ensemble from Clarke who called themselves “The Saxion.”
From 2021 to the 2022-23 seasons, the Clarke Choirs saw more than a doubling in participants. More than 70 students now participate at the High School level and there are almost 90 students participating at the middle school level.
“The growth of the program has been amazing,” said Mary Pohlmann, Clarke’s Middle School and High School choir teacher. “We’re seeing more students now, on a daily basis, than ever before.”
The Fall was packed full of choir events to kick off the new school year. With chamber choir – the vocal representation of Clarke – students performed at all vocal events including Homecoming, the Veterans Day assembly, as well as Clarke’s fall musical, The Music Man, in November. In December all choirs came together to perform in the 6th through 12th grade Choir Concert at the Clarke High School auditorium.
A special October event for the middle school boys was the Ritter Sing Festival at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. This is an annual event where students from 7th grade and above get the opportunity to work with Wartburg choir teams as well as a highly-recognized men’s a-cappella groups. This year, seven students from the Clarke middle school choir were able to learn from and sing with King’s Return, an internationally-recognized men’s a-cappella group.
In February, a half dozen choir students competed in Solo Musical Theater competitions with four going on to compete at State along with the speech and theater troupes.
“We were all so excited for the Sweeny Todd crew to make All-State” said Pohlmann. “With schools like West Des Moines Valley, Waukee, and North Polk competing, it really highlighted Clarke’s commitment and talent.”
The variety show rounded out the month with fun performances with the chamber choir and Cal Lundquist beatboxing for the crowd in the Clarke HS auditorium.
From March, more than a dozen Clarke Middle School students participated in solo competitions with one student performing a couple duets. Outside the huge increase in participation in these solo events was the fact that a majority of the participants were boys who earned a “Division 1” ranking from their performances.
“With the classes that are coming up, we’re expecting even more growth in the high school choirs.” said Pohlmann. “Especially after participating in The Music Man, the excitement for choral performance from our middle school students is high.”
For Clarke’s High School students, March also meant State Solo competitions, which was hosted at Clarke. The Clarke choirs earned an impressive six “Division 1” scores. Chamber choir earned “Division 1” scores in both their madrigal and small choir divisions. And, as an added bonus, every Clarke senior, four total, earned straight “1s” for their solo performances.