It would be accurate to state that, in the past, Montevideo High School has proven itself to be a formidable force in the statewide Minnesota Music Listening Contest (MLC).

It would be accurate to state that, in the past, Montevideo High School has proven itself to be a formidable force in the statewide Minnesota Music Listening Contest (MLC).

In 2009, Montevideo students Sean Jacobson, Corbin Groothuis and Jordan Montgomery took first place at the state competition. Last year, Lukas Hampton, Irena Marc­inkow­ski, and Isabelle Eid followed suit with a second place state finish.

This year, if all goes as planned, will be no different. On Jan. 20, at St. Cloud Tech High School, Monte­video students dominated the regional competition.

Montevideo Team 2 of sophomore Mitchell Moe, junior Froya Olson and  senior Jessica Belt placed first, while Team 1 — seniors Alex Bosch, Darin Stevens and Tyson Lund — placed second, sweeping the contest for MHS and living up to their school’s impressive reputation.

Team 2, currently ranked second overall in the state, will compete in state competition. Normally, the top two teams at each regional contest advance to state; however, due to MLC policy, two teams from the same school are not allowed to compete at state competition.

Despite Montevideo’s tradition of excellence at the contest, Music Listen­ing is understood very little by many in the school and the community. Two basic questions are consistently raised: What exactly is Music Listening Contest, and what’s the point?

In November, study guides were given to all the teams. The 65-page  guides include three CDs (containing classical music from all time periods of music history), and extensive information on all of the composers from the CDs.

A Music Listening Con­test consists of five rounds, each with its own unique set of challenges. In round one, students must identify the title and composer of a classical piece after a 20-second sample is played. Round two presents students with questions on some of the most intricate details of the study guide, from things like small details of a composer’s life, to stylistic components that are common throughout his or her works. At the regional competition, students were asked about what type of facial hair one of the composers had, prompting exasperated looks from many competitors.

If that sounds difficult, try round three, the Lightning Round, in which students must identify the title and composer of a piece after hearing samples of as short as three seconds. Round three is followed by another written test on the study guide material.

The event concludes with a real challenge: the Mystery Round. In this round, song samples are played that were not on the CDs and, therefore, the students have likely not heard them before. The teams must then identify the composer and time period of the samples based on their knowledge of music theory and history, and stylistic hints from composers which they know. Each round offers a certain number of points for each correct answer, culminating in 100 total available points throughout the rounds.

In the month before the regional competition, the two Montevideo teams generally studied two to three hours a day, but longer study sessions were not uncommon. “I remember one Saturday when I got up at 11 in the morning, sat down on the couch, and studied MLC until 2 a.m.,” said Moe.

Most of the other team members could relate, sharing stories of their own legendary study sessions. “We’ve been listening to exclusively classical music for months,” said Olson. “It will feel really good to listen to normal music again once this is all over!”

According to coach Dan Hampton, MLC is a fantastic way for young musicians to gain a strong background in music history while still in high school. “There’s no place in our curriculum that teaches music history, but MLC does a great job of introducing it to high school students in an interesting and fun way. The students are really focused on independent studying and that’s huge.”

“Mr. Hampton is an amazing coach,” said Belt. “The time and effort that he puts into helping us prepare is a big part of our success.”

State competition will be held on Feb. 3 at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.