By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School girls a capella group, Cm7b9#11, never intended to win a state title in female vocal performance.
In fact, the 11 Celtics that comprise the group only went to compete at the district level to get some feedback from the judges. They ended up winning there, and then traveling to the state competition where they proved themselves the best Oregon has to offer earlier this month.
“If we had the mindset to go and win, we might not have won, but we were just there to enjoy the music,” said junior Ella Garro.
Truth be told, Cm7b9#11(it’s a jazz chord) only became a fully-formed group in January. Competing wasn’t even in the picture at that point.
“We haven’t focused on being really showy this year, we focused on making music together,” said senior Sydnie Gould. “Now, we’re getting introduced as the top group in the state and it’s a shock. We’re really honored, but we still can’t believe it.”
The group had its beginnings in February 2015, when some of the current members were delivering Val-O-Grams (mini-concerts) to schoolmates.
“Then Mr. (Jim) Taylor challenged us to do more things and perform for the middle schools,” said Grace Condello.
Some of the students who saw them perform at Whiteaker are now members of the group.
“Seeing the Val-O-Gram groups when they visited our school was really fun to watch. After getting to McNary, and seeing how much fun the girls were having, it made me want to be part of it,” said freshman Veronica Reyes.
Freshman Sofia Zielinski echoed the sentiment.
“It was never something I thought I would do, but I thought they were so cool,” said Zielinski said.
Garro and co-leader Emma Blanco held tryouts for the group last fall, after deciding on what exactly they wanted the group to do.
“We started out as a pop group doing things you might hear on the radio, and then we figured out everyone was also taking the choral classics class. That’s when we decided we weren’t just a pop group and we started working on the music that we could perform at the district competition,” Blanco said.
While Blanco and Garro had specific vocal qualities they were looking for, Garro said other parts of the auditions were the deciding factor as to who made the cut.
“We put a lot more into getting to know them as people rather than their voice. We wanted to know what their work ethic was like, what they hoped to get out of being part of the group. That was more helpful than their actual voices,” Garro said.
One of the group’s first big gigs came at the Rose City Sing-Off in April where they brought home the Best Ensemble Sound award.
Having set the bar incredibly high already, Cm7b9#11 isn’t planning on resting on its laurels. The young ladies are looking for ways to continue performing throughout the summer, whether it’s for private parties or larger events.
Senior Ariana Pippert said the whole experience is making for a bittersweet end to her time as a Celtic.
“It’s a reminder of how blessed we are here at McNary to have all this talent. In another place, a similar group might fight tooth-and-nail to get where we are now,” she said. “I know I’m going on to other things, but I’m really proud of this group. In the years to come, they are going to do some crazy things.”
The other members of the group are Madi Zuro, Mary Dolenc, Jaden Brunhaver and Camryn Ronnow.