Local Students Qualify for All-Nationals Choir

Two rising stars raise the bar.

Indigo Clark (left) and Ella Marchio at All-State in Yakima.
Indigo Clark (left) and Ella Marchio at All-State in Yakima. Emilie Marchio

Two members of Peninsula High School’s junior class, Indigo Clark and Issabella Marchio, qualified for the All-Nationals Mixed Choir, part of the National Association for Music Education’s All-National Honors Ensembles (ANHE) program. They are the first PHS students to be accepted.

Prior to auditioning and qualifying for All-Nationals, Clark and Marchio sang with the All-State Choir in Yakima in February with 12 other PHS students who qualified.

The 2020 ANHE was originally scheduled to take place in Orlando, Fla., in early November, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the program will happen virtually from Jan. 7 to 9, 2021.

“It’s kind of a serious thing to get into All-Nationals for choir, so I was really excited for that. I’m still excited for the opportunity even though it’s going to be online, but I am a little bummed,” Marchio said. “I had so much fun with All-State. I was so looking forward to (All-Nationals) because it would’ve been such a really cool experience with so many other people that feel the same way about music.”

“I feel like the honor part of it still is there,” Clark said. “But it’s also the fact that it was a really nice resort in Florida and I was really looking forward to it. So I was pretty sad about that.”

Clark and Marchio have both been passionate about singing since elementary school. Marchio’s love of music was sparked by her teacher Lisa Mills at Vaughn Elementary, where she sang fearlessly in every single talent show. At the same time, Clark, who says she faked her early musical confidence, was inspired by Evergreen Elementary teacher Terry Hammon who started a choir festival.

The two girls met and began singing together at Key Peninsula Middle School in sixth grade under choir director Staci Webb, where they challenged each other in what they now describe as friendly competition, rather than rivalry.

“Me and Indigo, we always got the solos,” Marchio said.

“It was between her and I in middle school, all the time. If I didn’t get it, Ella got it. If Ella didn’t get it, I got it,” Clark said. “I think it’s really cool because in middle school we were the two kids, and now in high school we’re both in All-Nationals.”

Clark and Marchio credit their PHS choir director, Alison Ellis, who was recently nominated for a Grammy, for some of their success. 

“We’ve both been in the choir for three years now and she’s always been super supportive and encouraging. She’s the reason why we all auditioned for All-State,” Marchio said. “She’s always on top of education and learning about music too.”

“You get a genuine sense that she actually cares about you,” Clark said. “It’s wonderful. Being in her class was my favorite class, every day.”

The Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences began honoring music educators in 2014. The winning teacher receives a $10,000 honorarium and a trip to the Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles in early 2021. Ten semifinalists will be announced later this year.

With school taking place virtually, choir practice now happens over Zoom while students repeat and do singing exercises on mute. 

“It’s definitely not the same and it will never be the same online,” Marchio said. “I don’t know how it would work even if we go back to school and it’s low numbers, because having a concert we’re all together on the stage, and all the people in the audience.”

“I really want to be in a group setting like that again because it brings me so much joy, and it hurts that it might not be for a while that we get to do that,” Clark said. “It’s absolutely magical when you finally have a song down and you’re singing it with people and you’re doing a run through, and you can feel it, almost, in your body, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! This is so cool.’ You have to be in-person for that.”

Marchio, who sings in an indie rock band in addition to choir, dreams of a future in Broadway musicals.

“I think about that daily, like, what is something I can do today that will help me get to my ultimate goal of being on Broadway,” she said. “I’ve been singing for a very long time because music is so important to me and it’s always brought me so much joy. Music in general and finding myself through singing, it’s impacted me so much and it’s helped me grow a lot as a person too.”

In addition to singing and schoolwork, Clark draws a comic that she publishes monthly, and she has started running as an antidote to quarantine fatigue. Marchio is taking a dance class for something fun to do in her free time.

“For me, a big aspect of school is the social part, so not getting to fully have that has been super exhausting in a way,” Marchio said. “I mean, I love talking to my family but it’s not the same.”

“It’s all these weird little things I miss, like eating ramen with people, just sitting there sipping your ramen broth like, ‘How was your day?’ ” Clark said. “And after concerts when you get to hug people and take photos together, I miss that. I miss literally just standing next to someone and singing.”