INDEPENDENCE -- Last fall, Central High School music director Jeff Witt asked members of his symphonic choir to set goals for themselves for the coming year.
"They all said they wanted to win a state championship," Witt said.
Witt accommodated them, advising them that he would expect them to go through every rehearsal with that challenge in mind.
That meant choir sectionals practicing during lunchtime and putting in as many formal performances as possible.
"If they got upset, I would just say, `hey, I'm trying to help you reach your goal,'" Witt said with a laugh.
The outcome for Central High's choir was probably worth it.
The group placed first among 36 4A schools at the Oregon School Activities Association's state choir championships on May 8 in Newberg.
The school had placed fourth and second, respectively, in 2008 and 2009. Its last
state championship was in 2004.
"This was one of the first times in my career I've seen a true connection between the choir and the audience," Witt said of the final performances in front of 400 at George Fox University's Bauman Auditorium.
"People were actually crying after the second song."
Witt said he scheduled a glut of concerts this year, 16 in all, to aid students' comfort with one another and on stage.
That includes other music festivals and even the Western Oregon University Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Eleven of the choir members are seniors, including Alex King, who sings bass.
King said Witt didn't have to go the task master route to motivate the 42-member choir in its quest.
"For a while, there's people in class who were there just to have fun," he said. "But eventually people signed in, they were engaged, and really committed to it.
"That's why we pulled it off," said King, who's bound for the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., this fall. "Everybody bought into the idea."
Central High ended up scoring a collective 325 points out of a possible 360 points in categories such as technique and musicality. Selections performed included "Quoniam" from Hasse's Mass in D minor and the "Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal."
The second-place winners, Molalla and La Grande, tied with 310 points.
Eleven members of the choir will graduate next month. Witt said many within the group have been involved in his music program since sixth grade.
"People are congratulating me ... I have nothing to do with it," he said. "It's the kids."
One More Time
Central High School's symphonic choir will hold its farewell concert at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 26, inside the "cafetorium" at CHS. It will be the last performance inside the old high school, with the music program moving to its new auditorium next year.
Director Jeff Witt said choir members are usually given leeway with song selection for its final act. Besides an awards presentation, expect acappella versions of contemporary songs, such as Toto's "Africa" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody.
The event is free to the public.
What a Choir!
Central High School's choir program has enjoyed a great deal of success in recent years. Here's how the program has fared since 1999:
2010 -- First
2009 -- Second
2008 -- Fourth
2007 -- Second
2006 -- Third
2005 -- Fourth
2004 -- First
2003 -- Fifth
2002 -- Third
2001 -- Second
2000 -- First
1999 -- First