Lifting voices high

Not one, but two local students will be part of the Texas All-State Choir. Juniors Andrea Cervantez and M’Kalee Morgan — a home-schooled Big Spring student — will travel to San Antonio as part of the All-State Choir to perform Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. “We are so thankful for Mrs. (Anna) O’Brien and Mrs. (Linda) Lindell,” the girls said. “If it wasn’t for them working with us, we wouldn’t have made it this far.”The girls also attribute their achievement to Randall Capshaw, a junior high choir teacher, and Eddie Vandewalker, music director at Howard College, for their support and teaching. “Mr. Vandewalker listened to me sing and he helped me get through music without being scared,” Cervantez said. Morgan added, “He was always encouraging, no matter what.”The girls auditioned at Midland Lee on Jan. 4 in order to obtain their spots on the choir. Morgan placed eight chair and Cervantez placed 11th chair. “It was very overwhelming to find out that I made it to the choir. It was so exciting that you start to cry,” Morgan said. You spend all that time worrying about what spot you are going to make and when you find out that you made it, it’s enough to make you cry. I did start to cry,” Cervantez added.High school students selected to perform in the All-State concerts have competed through several levels of auditions beginning in the fall of 2011 to arrive at the state level. All-State is the highest honor a Texas music student can receive. More than 1,500 students are selected through a process that began with more than 60,000 students from around the state vying for this honor to perform in one of 13 ensembles (bands, orchestras and choirs.) From those 60,000 students, 840 are selected to perform with All-State concert and jazz bands; 220 chosen for All-State orchestras and 500 are selected to perform with All-State choirs. Texas Music Educators Association sponsors the Texas All-State competition. Morgan has been taking voice lessons for the past three years, but has been involved in choir and singing for several years. Cervantez started singing in fifth grade at the recommendation of her pastor’s wife. “It is just something I enjoy doing. I know if it wasn’t for Mrs. O’Brien though and her pushing me and not letting me quit, this never would have happened. She wasn’t going to let me quit.”O’Brien made it to the All-State choir in her junior year of high school — the same age as both girls — and she attributes that moment to her becoming an educator. “It was that experience which made me want to become a teacher,” O’Brien said. “I really push my students. When Andrea wanted to quit, I wouldn’t let her and I kept pushing her … that’s why.”The All-State choir is 95 percent students from 5A schools and only 2 percent of 3A school students, according to O’Brien. “The fact that we had two girls from Big Spring place on that choir, in that 2 percent, is a big deal,” O’Brien said. Contact Staff Writer Amanda Moreno at 263-7331 ext. 234 or by e-mail at