Robert L. Bland Middle School 8th Grade Choir selected as state Honor Ensemble

WESTON — The Robert L. Bland Middle School (RLBMS) 8th Grade Choir has been selected as the 2024 West Virginia Music Educators Association Middle School State Honor Ensemble. This is the highest accolade achievable by a middle school choir in the state and is awarded to only one middle school performance ensemble each year.

The competition for the State Honor Ensemble is always very difficult. Because the state only chooses one ensemble and is not divided into classes like it is in athletics, choral ensembles must compete against instrumental ensembles, such as concert bands and orchestras. Additionally, RLBMS competes against schools with twice the student population and schools that can create a special class for only the most talented musicians instead of an inclusive ensemble of all choir members.

Candidates for Honor Ensemble must record and submit three pieces to the WV Music Educators Association (WVMEA). Each year, applications are judged by the WVMEA executive board to decide which ensemble will be the Honor Ensemble. As this year’s State Honor Ensemble, the RLBMS 8th grade choir will be recognized and perform a concert at the WVMEA Conference in Charleston.

Adam Loudin has directed the RLBMS choirs and bands since 2010.

“It is difficult to explain to people who haven’t witnessed it just how driven and dedicated a group of middle school kids have to be to get to this point as an ensemble,” Loudin says. “The choir has worked tirelessly with focus and purpose throughout every moment of every class period. They have put up with me constantly pushing them to be better than what most would deem exceptional. They have learned to be musicians, not just singers, and they have done it with laughter and joy accompanying every step of the journey.”

Loudin expresses appreciation to his mother, Rose Ellen Loudin, who is the choir accompanist, and to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church for allowing the recordings to be made in their sanctuary, which Loudin considers the best acoustical space in the county.

The RLBMS choir prepares over thirty pieces each year that are concert-worthy. Loudin says choir members show up ready to work hard from bell to bell each day.

“If you don’t believe it, come down to the school and watch them rehearse…it’s really something to see. Personally, I think their rehearsals are much more uplifting and impressive than their performances could ever be.”

The mission in the RLBMS Band/Choir room is “to develop work ethic, empathy, patience, and a healthy definition of success through learning to read, play, and sing great music together as a team.” Under Loudin’s leadership, RLBMS has produced four State Honor Ensembles in the last eight years, with State Honor Bands in 2016 and 2018 and State Honor Choirs in 2017 and 2024.

As a part of the Honor Ensemble award, the RLBMS 8th grade choir has been invited to travel to Charleston to perform a concert at the WV Music Educators Annual Conference. They will perform in the Little Theater of the Charleston Civic Center at 12:30 pm on Friday, March 1. This concert is free and open to the public, but will mainly be attended by music teachers from all over the state.

Loudin says, “I can’t wait for all the other music educators and clinicians in the state to hear how wonderful our young Lewis County musicians have become.”

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