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800 Students Compete in Central Kansas League Music Festival on McPherson College Campus

In auditorium and sanctuary, classroom and library, the campus of McPherson College was alive with music and song on March 4.

Thanks to about 800 high school musicians and singers competing in the Central Kansas League Music Festival, few corners of the campus lacked the sound of music. The competitions included both vocal and instrumental divisions in both ensemble and solo categories across the whole day.

To accommodate everything from large-group jazz bands to a capella singers to percussion ensembles, performances were held on campus in Brown Auditorium, Miller Library, and Hess Hall as well as venues close to campus – McPherson Church of the Brethren and Trinity Lutheran Church.

Debra Lewis, choir and vocal teacher in Hoisington, brought 36 of her students to perform and compete at the league festival. She said hearing other students perform and developing camaraderie with them mean they grew and learned as performers. She said the group performances in Trinity Lutheran Church stood out to her as a highlight.

“There were a lot of moments where my students said, ‘Wow, that was awesome,’” she said. “It made a big impression on them.”

The Central Kansas League member high schools are Halstead, Haven, Hesston, Hillsboro, Hoisington, Kingman, Larned, Smoky Valley, Lyons, Nickerson, Pratt and Sterling. In recent years, McPherson College has offered its facilities and resources for Central Kansas League events, including the league’s art festival and a league jazz festival.

Kyle Hopkins, associate professor of music and director of bands at McPherson College, along with Shawn Knopp, chairman of the league, spent long hours planning the festival. Hopkins said it was well worth the time and effort, however, to build community across the league.

“We made them feel welcome and vital on our campus,” Hopkins said. “And I heard over and over again how much they appreciated our hospitality.”
Hopkins said the festival benefitted more than the students competing.

“We encouraged over 800 students to achieve a higher level in their musical preparation which will enable them to embrace a deeper understanding of themselves and their humanity,” Hopkins said. “We strengthened our campus community, and we built a larger community of area schools.  To me, that’s a win, win, win.”