GATHERING OF CULTURES – Dorothy Gordon holds year-old Marilyn De La Torre as they perform an entrance song Thursday at the B.J McGillis Gym during the annual Gathering of Cultures. A Tlingit dance group made up of several Sitka Tlingit dance groups opened the gathering. Mt. Edgecumbe High School’s student dance groups representing cultural groups from five regions of Alaska also performed. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Sitka Musicians Play, Learn at State Festival


Sentinel Staff Writer

Sitka High and Mt. Edgecumbe High School musicians collected lessons, honors and memorable experiences at the recent All-State Music Festival in Anchorage.

Sitka High music director Andrew Hames went with six band and choir members, and Mt. Edgecumbe music director Heather Gluth took four members of the school choir.

All of the musicians qualified in advance by submitting recordings showcasing their skills and artistry, performing a number of short pieces that challenged them across different areas, including speed, dynamics and range, the directors said.

Sitka High School musicians, from left, Josh Gluth, Tyler Adres, Justin Hames, Emily Blackmon, music instructor Andrew Hames, Quinton Newsome and Theo Everson. (Photo by Sally Everson)

Mt. Edgecumbe High School Music Director Heather Gluth, second from left, poses with MEHS state choir members, from left, Mars Crabtree, Virginia Pearson, Khaila Fratis and Summer Tickett at the All-State Music Festival Nov 17-19 in Anchorage. (Photo provided to the Sentinel)

For many of the musicians it was their first time at the All-State festival. It was canceled in 2020 then returned to a live event last year and this year.

Sitka High

The Sitka High kids who qualified in choir were sophomore Josh Gluth, tenor II; senior Emily Blackmon, first chair alto II; and junior Quinton Newsome, soprano II.

Qualifying in band were senior Tyler Adres, alto saxophone; freshman Justin Hames, trumpet; and junior Theo Everson, flute.

Andrew Hames, who is in his first year as music director at Sitka High, said the festival gave the kids the benefit of learning from directors and conductors from universities across the U.S.

“It’s just a chance for them to work with somebody on a higher level of music academia,” Hames said. “They bring a different perspective to the rehearsal process and a different enthusiasm. It’s really a great opportunity to get to play with other musicians from across the state who are just as dedicated and hardworking as they are.”

Hames said the students’ improvement after working with the high-level instructors for two days was impressive.

“It’s the amount of work that can get done when everybody is there focused and working hard – it’s just amazing how quickly the band and choir comes together,” he said. “They put together such a high caliber performance.”

For himself as a director, he enjoyed watching other directors work, hearing pieces that haven’t been performed here, and meeting with other high school music directors about statewide and local challenges.

Hames said he also enjoyed the festival from the vantage point of director, decades after he was there as a Sitka High student in the bass I section of the all-state choir.

“It was great to see it still going strong,” said Hames, now 42. “With COVID they didn’t have it for a year, and last year was the first year back. It was just great to see the opportunity and that some students were able to take advantage of it.”

Reflecting on the state of music in the public schools, Hames said many programs are focused on retention, particularly the singing programs.

“We just shared notes on that,” he said. “I think COVID really upset a lot of trajectories in various music programs throughout the state. So everyone’s kind of at a reset point, which is good to know, but there’s a lot of great music educators out there still and a lot of great students who really worked hard through the pandemic.”

This year’s seniors missed their chance at All-State their sophomore year when the festival was not held.

“It’s been an unusual four years for all of them, so I was really glad especially for the seniors that they could participate in this and have a normal All-State,” Hames said.

Those who qualified for the All-Northwest Music Festival in Bellevue, Washington, in February are:

All Northwest band: Tyler Adres, alto sax

All Northwest wind symphony: Theo Everson, flute; Justin Hames, trumpet

All Northwest mixed choir: Emily Blackmon, alto I; Haley Silva, alto I

All Northwest treble choir, Quinton Newsome, soprano II.

Mt. Edgecumbe

Mt. Edgecumbe students who qualified for All-State Treble Choir were Virginia Pearson, Sitka, soprano I; Summer Tickett, Fairbanks, soprano I; Mars Crabtree, Chugiak, alto I; Khailia Fratis, St. Paul Island, alto II.

It’s Heather Gluth’s third year teaching music at Edgecumbe, and the first year she’s taken students to the festival.

“For my students it was the first opportunity for them to sing in a large choir,” she said. 

Gluth has two sections of choir, with about 35 students total in the two classes. She also teaches guitar/ukulele and band I, and conducts the pep band. She said she’s heartened by how much the numbers have gone up in the choir program, from eight in her first year.

“We’re growing in the right direction,” she said. “But for the girls to be able to sing with 80 people is a pretty eye-opening experience. Just to see them really get fired up about music– like ‘I’m going to tell my friends they need to join’ – is such a great thing. Just seeing their excitement and their passion for learning new material.”

Gluth said it was also rewarding to see the students’ personal growth through the experience, and watch them strengthen their connection to music. She said events like the festival help build enthusiasm and excitement for the Mt. Edgecumbe High music programs, which - like other schools’ bands and choirs - are still rebuilding after the pandemic.

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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






March 2004

Photo caption: Fire engines and ambulances shine in the sun outside the new fire hall Saturday during an open house. Hundreds turned out to look over the $4 million facility, which is twice the size of the building it replaced. It features a state-of-the-art exhaust system and much larger offices and a large training room.


March 1974

The Sheldon Jackson Museum will have a special showing of replicas of ancient Tlingit hunting weapons. The replicas were made by A. P. Johnson, a Tlingit  culture instructor and metal arts teacher at SJC.


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