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Perfect Pitch: Dodger Bands, Orchestra, Choirs Earn Top Honors - from The Messenger

May 21, 2022

After the symphonic band walked off the stage, Director Al Paulson knew his group just made history.

For the first time at Fort Dodge Senior High School, the symphonic band received a Division I rating at the Iowa High School Music Association Large Group contest at the Fort Dodge Middle School recently.

It was a solid day all around for the Fort Dodge choirs, bands and orchestra.

The Dodger orchestra and wind ensemble also earned DI ratings.

The voce lirica and a cappella choirs earned Division I ratings. Cantabile and fortis quorum picked up DII ratings.

Paulson, the school's band director, and the band had set goals which they were hoping to repeat.

"I took over the symphonic band two years ago and at that time the kids and I set a goal to get a Division I,'' Paulson said. "The kids in both bands have worked very hard practicing and coming to lessons. It was a great day for both bands.

"As the symphonic band was coming off the stage, I told them I was super proud of them and in my heart they performed at a DI level no matter what the judges thought. Sure enough - the judges were in agreement."

The wind ensemble also earned a DI rating.

"After the contest a judge stopped me and congratulated me on our performances and said I should be proud of the bands because not many schools can boast of receiving a Division I for both bands," Paulson said. "I am truly proud and excited to teach these fine musicians in both bands and look forward to the future."

On the strings side, Director Brian Robison was happy to see the Fort Dodge orchestra perform so well.

"The FDSH orchestra has received a Division I at the IHSMA large group festival the last three years the festival has been held," Robison said. "It was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and school shut down. I am impressed with the student's ability to rise to the occasion and maintain the high expectations that have been put before them.

"The last two years through the pandemic have challenged everyone, and while I can't say that we have returned to 100 percent normal, I am very proud of the work that has led us to another D1 rating at the state festival."

Voce lirica, which is made up of sopranos and altos, also received a DI.

"I am extremely proud of voce lirica, not only for earning a Division I, but for the teamwork and leadership they showed while preparing this music," said Director Kim Wankum. "Their third song did not have many dynamic markings, so the students worked collaboratively in small groups to hypothesize a plan for dynamics throughout the song. Students then "tested" out each plan as a full choir, and they picked which ideas worked best.

"In addition, they challenged each other to raise the bar on "crispy" consonants, tall vowel shapes, and many other musical components. Their hard work and dedication to both the music and each other was fantastic to witness."

Cantabile was just short of DI rating.

"Cantabile was only one point away from receiving a Division I at Large Group," Wankum said. "The students had great synergy and were able to work together to make huge strides in part-singing, dynamics, and musicality this year.

"I'm proud of the work they accomplished and am excited to see how far they will go next year."

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