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Music students shine in All-State honors from ILMEA

Twenty Community music students receive All-State honors from the Illinois Music Education Association
All-District+and+All-State+designation%2C+choir+teacher+Mr.+Ben+Luginbuhl+said%2C+are+significant+honors+that+require+students+to+be+%E2%80%9Chighly+motivated%E2%80%9D+and+balance+%E2%80%9Ctechnical+skill%E2%80%9D+with+%E2%80%9Cfluency+and+musicianship.+%0ATwenty+Community+music+students+demonstrated+those+skills+this+year+in+the+eyes+of+the+ILMEA.%C2%A0%0APhoto+Courtesy+of%3A+Mr.+Jeff+Christopherson
All-District and All-State designation, choir teacher Mr. Ben Luginbuhl said, are significant honors that require students to be “highly motivated” and balance “technical skill” with “fluency and musicianship.” Twenty Community music students demonstrated those skills this year in the eyes of the ILMEA.  Photo Courtesy of: Mr. Jeff Christopherson

Twenty Community music students received All-State honors from the Illinois Music Education Association after the building qualified 75 musicians for the All-District festival Nov. 4. 

Students practiced this year’s audition material, released to teachers in the spring, over the summer before getting about one month to practice the chosen excerpts and submit their recorded auditions in the fall. 

ILMEA judges ranked the recordings, with top students attending District Three’s All-District Festival at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

The association then named the highest scorers—including three Community band sophomores, two orchestra seniors and 15 choir students—to All-State groups using a formula to ensure all areas of the State were represented. 

Both the All-District and All-State designation, choir teacher Mr. Ben Luginbuhl said, are significant honors that require students to be “highly motivated” and balance “technical skill” with “fluency and musicianship.” 

“They don’t just play the notes and rhythms,” Luginbuhl said. “It’s expressive.” 

That expressiveness can only come with time and investment—the things that two-time All-State clarinet player Sophia Le (’26) said sets ILMEA musicians apart. 

In regular music classes, Le said, “Some people are just in it because their parents are telling them to, and it’s like another chore or another boring class for them.” 

But ILMEA honorees do more than show up for class. They are passionate about what they do, putting in hours of work outside the regular school year. 

All three of Community’s All-State band qualifiers had private teachers for their instruments, working to master the ILMEA-issued études—one fast and one slow to demonstrate skill—and scales before fall auditions. 

Sophomore Katie Heger, who made All-State on the clarinet, said summer preparation is essential to produce “quality music.” 

“If you want to do well,” Heger said, “you have to practice everything before the cuts come out.” 

All-State saxophonist Mohnish Janagan (’26) said summer marching band involvement increased his commitment to ILMEA—from learning to “shape” music to surrounding himself with motivated bandmates and directors. 

“Krishiv Sreejith…was my idol because he was a previous Drum Major,” Janagan said, “and he made ILMEA last year. He motivated me to be like him.” 

That motivation took Janagan from a player who didn’t qualify for All-District last year to one who ranked first for Baritone Saxophone in District Three this fall.

“I didn’t think I’d place in District,” Janagan said, “but I was really excited that I got first chair.”

Janagan said the accomplishment extends beyond personal gratification.

“Even for District,” Janagan said, “we had a lot more people make it this year than last year, which is really good for our band and our representation.”

Students who qualified to represent Community woke up at 6 a.m. for a six-hour rehearsal at the District Three festival—but the commitment is natural from a group of students so dedicated to their craft, Luginbuhl said. 

“It’s awesome,” Luginbuhl said, “because you’ve got 200 plus students in there who are all pretty passionate about music. It’s a really rewarding experience, and they get to work with conductors from all over the country.”

Janagan said All-District students’ motivation allowed the group to explore more difficult pieces at the festival.

“You have the best musicians in the district,” Janagan said, “which lets you play really hard music and make it really beautiful or really technical.”

That experience will prove valuable in the long run. 

“Having the expertise of state-level music and district-level music,” Janagan said, “helps me grow and develop to be better for college.” 

But before reaching the state level, honorees like Janagan and Community’s two qualifying orchestra members—seniors Haru Hartry and Sophie Clement—must still audition for their chair at January’s All-State performance.

While vocalists are judged solely on their initial District submission, which gained 10 Community choir students acceptance to the All-State Honors Choir, instrumentalists have new pieces to learn before they are accepted to All-State Honors Band or Orchestra. 

After making All-State as just a freshman last year, Le’s chair placement to beat is 18th of 36 at the state performance. 

Janagan shares Le’s aim to break the top half for his own instrument. The bari sax has six chairs at All-State, and the top three get to play in the Honors All-State Band—a group with “really cool” music that has motivated Janagan to increase his practice schedule.

“I’m working every day non-stop,” Janagan said, “practicing two to three hours at this point to make Honors All-State.”

As the musicians anticipate January’s three-day opportunity to rehearse and perform with other All-State members, the State qualification itself is making an impact. 

“I’ve struggled in the past with…feeling like I’m not doing enough with the clarinet,” Heger said, “but this has really helped me realize that I am taking it seriously. I am getting results out of the work that I put into the instrument.”

Janagan sees the honor as an important milestone in his upward-aiming musical trajectory. 

“Being represented as one of the best bari sax players in the state of Illinois is an accomplishment,” Janagan said, “and it’s taken a long time to get here. Being a sophomore, I only know I can get better and better from here.”

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About the Contributor
Abby Ruebush, Editor-in-Chief
Abby Ruebush is a senior at Normal Community High School and serves as president of Student Council and the Community Best Buddies chapter. This is her third year working with the Inkspot, where she is Editor-in-Chief.  I like dance, ice cream and thoughtful conversation. A slogan to live by is that every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.
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