Amador Valley Choir wins ‘Unanimous Superior’ at CMEA

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Shelley Durbin

The choir presented in front of three judges, led by Shelley Durbin. (Photo provided by Shelley Durbin)

On April 22, Amador Valley’s Chamber and Concert choir classes competed in the CMEA festival, where they were  judged on their skill and musicianship. The choristers  ended up winning the highest award, the unanimous superior. 

Although there weren’t a lot of days to practice before the competition, both the students and the choir teacher performed outstandingly at the competition. 

“I guess we had 10 days total to practice it. And I feel like we should have practiced more. But since we got a unanimous superior, I don’t regret the practice time that we got,” said Floressa Mukherjee (‘25).

The students barely got any practice in class and the choir classes practiced different pieces to practice the fundamentals. Since the CMEA judges judged the flexibility and the skills to perform modern music, the choir classes practiced according to only the rubrics to obtain the unanimous superior. 

“I do a lot of mental preparation from the standpoint of explaining what the festival is [and teaching] a lot about how to be a listener, and actually how to be a judge yourself. So that you can evaluate what you’re doing in real-time,” said Shelley Durbin, the choir teacher

Durbin had been teaching for a total of 33 years and had much experience in the CMEA festival. She knew how judges usually graded classes and the strategy for achieving the unanimous superior award. So she used her experiences to assist amateur students since it was their first time attending the CMEA. 

“I really just went with it. I wasn’t stressed at all, because all the choir students were together and we all just practiced, so no one was really stressed,” said Mukherjee

Like Mukherjee, other choristers were also stress-free. The musicians went to the CMEA with joy and excitement. Regardless of the class difference—chamber and concert choir—, the two groups easily interacted with each other. 

“I was actually way less nervous than I thought it would be. I think it has something to do with just our group dynamic, we’re all great friends. And it really is more like a choir family.We went to McDonald’s and we got to sing a song for them at the end. But yeah, it was definitely a lot of fun and we were all just hanging out,” said Shravani Kurapati (‘26)

The attitude appealed to the judges and not only eased the students but also Durbin

“[The students] were quiet at the right times [and] people at the contest venue commented on how classy their behavior was, how dignified they seemed. And so because they were so focused and ready to do the task, it really helps me stay focused as their leader,” said Durbin. 

Since both chamber and concert choirs performed together, it challenged the student to collaborate with the skill gap. But even with the skill difference, both classes adjusted to each other to steadily perform. “One of [the] biggest things I value is the idea of being flexible. So you … have your constraints, the goals, and the elements that you’re working on, but then also [be able to] adjust for what the circumstances are at the moment,” said Durbin.