Six students from Clatsop County head to Oregon Music Educators Association All-State BandIf your chops hurt just thinking about playing a band instrument for 16 hours in a single weekend, you won't get any sympathy from a group of local All-State Band students - because it's their idea of a good time.
Six Clatsop County high school students are heading to Eugene Friday to play with some of the best young musicians from across the state in the Oregon Music Educators Association All-State Band. They'll practice with a guest conductor, participate in sectionals and perform four scores at a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee at the University of Oregon's Hult Center.
"It's a big opportunity and a big honor to go," said flutist Daisy Stahley, an Astoria High School senior.
Other Astoria High School participants are junior euphonium player Kim Russell, sophomore slide trombone player Alex Whitaker and senior slide trombone player Dylan McMurtry.
Warrenton High School is sending senior bass clarinet player Jennifer Lampert and sophomore flutist Erika Barber.
Long historyAll-State is a musical tradition that dates back to the 1930s. In addition to a band, the All-State program includes a high school choir, orchestra and jazz band and middle and elementary school groups.
This year, All-State Band is open only to 1A, 2A and 3A schools, to give smaller bands the opportunity to send more students. The Oregon Music Educators Association in 2003 voted to make every other year a "small schools" year, when 4A school students aren't eligible to audition.
"Probably 90 percent of kids who make it are in the big schools, big cities with private teachers," said Chuck Bolton, organizing chairman for All-State Band and a former Knappa teacher. "These other students, who are fine musicians, deserve opportunities."
One of those opportunities is the chance to work with a different conductor than they're used to. This year Gerald King, a professor at the School of Music of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, will be leading the practices and performance. King has gained a reputation as an outstanding conductor and adjudicator.
"He's a high-energy person and motivates and inspires kids," Bolton said. "We want someone to have them work hard and get excited about what they're doing."
McMurtry said he was awed at another conference by a guest conductor who didn't need a score because he had memorized the notes of every single instrument.
"He could tell when you played an A flat instead of an A," McMurtry said. "He knew every single part."
That experience left McMurtry excited about working with a conductor with alternate musical interpretations and fresh advice.
AdvantagesPlaying in the All-State Band also lets many students play in a larger group. The band features 100 musicians, and draws from 36 high schools. Another advantage is being able to play with color instruments such as oboes and bassoons, which many schools don't have. Depending on their hometown band program, the music may be more demanding than they're used to, said Tom Muller, 2005 All-State chairman.
Sunday's program includes "March of the Belgian Paratroopers," by Pierre Leemans; "Their Blossoms Down," by Samuel R. Hazo; "The Earl of Oxford's Marche," by Gordon Jacob and "The Festival Prelude," by Alfred Reed.
Astoria High School Band Director Tracy Hafer said the program is a fantastic chance for top-end students to play with other dedicated musicians and "realize they aren't the only ones in the state working this hard."
This year the Astoria High School students were hand-selected by their director to attend. The All-State Band was short on some instruments, and organizers there thought Astoria had a good program. They asked Hafer to send a few students. Both Warrenton High School students sent in audition tapes and were selected based on their recordings. The music included a technical, scale-based piece, a song with a variety of dynamics and staccato notes and a more lyrical song.
Barber didn't get her hopes up after sending her recording in and was thrilled when she made the cut.
"I was like 'Woah! This is cool. Now I get to go somewhere, meet new people and try to learn some stuff,'" she said.
For Russell, All-State Band is a chance to enjoy the camaraderie of other band members - and expel some air. She said she started playing the euphonium in sixth grade "because it was big, and I was little, and I had a lot of air to spare. I still have it, too."
As for making those lips last through the long hours of practices, longtime band director John McManus, a clarinet player who was one of the first to attend the All-State program in 1935, said to soak up the rest periods when the director is working with other groups. That, and come to this realization: "You do perform a lot, and it's good for you."