St. Mary's Academy's Marian Singers are headed to state choir competition.
St. Mary's Academy's Marian Singers are headed to state choir competition.

On April 9, St. Mary's Academy won the 2013 Mount Hood Conference Large Group Choral Contest. The win marks the first conference title for the school's top choir, the Marian Singers. It's the first time in state history that an all-female choir clinched a conference title.

The Marian Singers will proceed to the OSAA 6A State Choir Championship, taking place at George Fox University on May 10.

"For a few years now, we've been recognized as an outstanding women's choir," said Kathy Briggs, director of choral music at St. Mary's Academy. "It is nice to be recognized as an outstanding choir, period."

In addition to receiving valuable feedback from clinicians, Briggs and her students enjoyed hearing the other choirs perform during the competition.

Also last month, two St. Mary’s students received writing awards from the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture at the University of Portland. Biblical verse Isaiah 43:19 provided the inspiration for this year’s essay topic: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

St. Mary’s Academy junior Lizzy Culbertson took first place. Junior Grace Newsom received an honorable mention.  

“The judging committee was very impressed that both of the winning entries from St. Mary’s seized the idea and sprinted away with it, rather than ploddingly write what the teacher expected," says Brian Doyle, editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland and Garaventa Awards selection committee member. "We liked that the idea grabbed these writers by the heartstrings and they were honest and real and genuine and emotionally open.”

The essay contest is open to juniors at Catholic schools in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. First-place winners receive a $500 cash prize, and those earning honorable mention receive $250.

In her winning essay, “Pink Overalls,” Culbertson reflected on reestablishing her ever-changing relationship with God. She likened the strength and support God provides to being picked up by the overalls by her father when she was a toddler learning to walk.
“There are new opportunities every day to make the choices to glorify God, to love people, to treat everyone with respect. Even if I’ve messed up the day before or the week before, there’s always another chance to get it right the next day,” she said.

For her essay, titled “Chloe,” 17-year-old Newsom wrote about the death of her sister, and how she and her family had to find a new way of life without Chloe.

“My essay is really about making a new way for yourself in the wake of incredible loss, and I think that is something that everyone can relate to on some level or another,” said Newsom, who notes that English is her favorite subject and describes her Garaventa honor as “validating and rewarding.”