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MASON CITY | A 2009 Mason City High School graduate has been selected for a prestigious accolade. 

Five years ago, tenor Connor Koppin was chosen for All-State Choir. During this fall's All-State Music Festival, about 600 of Iowa's best high school vocalists will perform Koppin's "i carry your heart," making the 23-year-old the youngest living composer ever to be featured during the event. 

"It will be surreal," said Koppin, who is the choir director at Roland-Story High School in Story City. "It hasn't quite set in yet."

He composed the piece during his junior year at Wartburg College, basing it on an E.E. Cummings poem. 

Men and women sing at odds, Koppin said, while the title serves as a mantra. The ending focuses on parting. 

Last week, he led 150 ninth- through 12th-graders through the arrangement Thursday during choir camp at Mason City High School. Following the three-day event, students auditioned for All-State. 

"Think about the motion of the music," he said, as he critiqued singers after a performance. "Be intentional and know the key words." 

Seniors Anna Riesen and Elijah Warfield were enjoying working with a celebrated composer who was also close to their own age. 

Warfield, 17, said he "fell in love" with the song the first time he heard it. 

"There's an intensity to it," said Riesen, 16. "You almost want to put a face or idea on the 'your.'"

While both were nervous to audition, they said they would be honored to sing the piece with the All-State Choir. 

"The feeling is unexplainable," said Warfield, who previously performed with the All-State choir in 2011, 2012 and 2013. 

This isn't the first time Mason City students have learned Koppin's works. 

After singing "i carry your heart" in 2013 at Carnegie Hall, the Concert Choir received a standing ovation, an accolade Director of Choral Activities Joel Everist says is "unheard of" during the middle of a program. 

When describing how proud he is of his former student, Everist was at a loss for words. 

"It shows what a special place Mason City is," Everist said of Koppin's All-State selection. "it's just amazing, because he was in their seats just a few years ago."

Dr. Lee Nelson, who will direct this year's All-State Choir, is also pleased with his former student's accomplishments. Nelson is an associate music professor at Wartburg College and also directs the college's choir. 

"Being chosen for All-State is a really high, prestigious honor for any composer, but especially for a young, budding composer like Connor," he said. "I'm very proud. It's really a wonderful feeling to see him being featured in that way." 


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