It had been seven years since McMichael Middle School’s choir last participated in a UIL Concert & Sight Reading contest. Considering how long it had been, they did pretty well Tuesday, earning all 1s in the concert portion of the competition held at Whitehouse High School.

They prepared and performed three pieces for the day: One is required to be in a foreign language, one must be acapella, and the third selection is the director’s choice.

Director Aaron Dominguez is in his second year overseeing the middle school’s choir program. Dominguez is a West Texas native but obtained his Master’s degree in Vocal Performance at Stephen F. Austin State University.

At the beginning, he needed to sort through the students he had scheduled in his classes, searching for those genuinely interested in choir, he said.

“By the second semester last year, I really started getting students who were engaged in choir,” Dominguez said.

He chose not to participate last year in the UIL contest, but the program began making public appearances around Nacogdoches, including at the NISD Fine Arts Showcase. They will be back there next month when the Showcase takes place at Nacogdoches High School on April 13.

Last year, the program had around 35 to 40 students participating, Dominguez said. This year’s group is pushing 60, and he hopes to have even more students join the program next fall.

Classes for choir are spread over four periods, when each group works on the music for the UIL performance. Beginning in January, Domingeuz started holding after school practices for the entire choir a couple times a week, then upped that to daily in the buildup to the contest in Whitehouse.

While the concert part of the performance allows for preparation ahead of time, sight reading is exactly what it sounds like… the choir and director receives a piece of music 24 measures long that they have not seen before. After seven minutes to practice and work on pitch – without actually singing – the choir performs for three judges. Then, two more minutes to make any fixes and polish the piece – once again without actually singing – before performing one final time.

Students participating Tuesday in Whitehouse include, Ashlyn Beagle, Joanna Cruz-Gonzalez, Jennifer Datin, Anastasia Darville, Juniper Farr, Danna Flores, Annette Garcia, Jade Garcia, Jade Smith, Kyndal Gibson, Hadley Harris, Allie Hughes and Raelyn Louis.

Also, Rielyn Louis, Leah Martin, Riley McGee, Ximena Morones-Mendoza, Gaby Nava-Luevano, Korie Perry, Lexie-Ann Stilley, Talley Stickland, Aaliyah Thibodeaux, Harley Usher and Alexandria Williams.

The choir program at McMichael is part of the district’s expanding fine arts program to provide more opportunities at the elementary and middle schools, NISD Director of Fine Arts Deshmond Johnson said. The Showcase on April 13 provides parents and the public an opportunity to see what all of the district’s programs are doing.

“I’m really proud of the work of the McMichael choir,” Johnson said. “And our Showcase next month is a wonderful opportunity to see what all of our programs are doing.”