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With the school year is drawing to a close, the RBHS band program is already focused on the year ahead. As 42 seniors leave the program this May, juniors and sophomores must step up to fill the big shoes that will be left behind.
Of the competitive marching and concert bands, the selective Wind Ensemble is to suffer the most since it is comprised primarily of juniors and seniors. As is custom, auditions for membership in the next year’s Wind Ensemble occurred in mid-April.
However, the number of those who auditioned for the group dwindled when compared to years past. With a severe lack of students signed up for the ensemble, band director Steve Mathews held a second round of auditions Tuesday, May 1 in hopes of gaining more participation.
“Most kids just don’t think they have a chance at making [the Wind Ensemble],” Mathews said. “They think the music is too hard, and they just won’t try. But you just have to encourage kids to audition. We have the numbers for it; we have 131 [students] right now signed up for band next year, so it’s not because of lack of numbers. It’s just because maybe a lack of confidence in students.”
Second auditions were held for clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone and baritone saxophone. However, Mathews intends to hold yet another round of auditions in the fall semester after marching season for trumpets, French horns, euphoniums and tubas.
Each student’s audition on May 1 consisted of a chromatic scale, major scale, melodic minor scale and two prepared excerpts from next year’s All-State band audition material. The assessment ended with a sight-reading test so adjudicators could consider how well students process music on the spot after looking at a piece of literature for the first time.
Mathews said he expects everyone who auditions to meet a standard before he can accept the musician into the Wind Ensemble. He hopes to hold members to the high standard in order to cultivate a band that is on a higher level musically than the Symphonic Band and to ensure the band next year is capable of the success the Wind Ensemble has had in previous years. With many members of the band making All-District and All-State band, as well as the group’s received honor of performing at the Missouri Music Educators Association convention in Jefferson City, band members recognize the reputation the ensemble has to uphold.
Despite the necessity of a second round of auditions for the group this year, Mathews maintains that the requirements for acceptance will not be lowered.
“We always have the standards,” Mathews said. “We’re not ever going to lower them too low because we still have to have kids that can play the literature. But, at the same time, for the example of the clarinet section, we have to have clarinet players. It’s not that there aren’t clarinet players; we just need to have them. But we like to try to think that we’re not going to lower the standards.”
Convinced by the directors about the need for clarinets in the upper-level band, sophomore Jon Crader reluctantly decided to give the second round of auditions a try. After working initially to audition on saxophone, however, he did not have much time to prepare the clarinet audition material. Though “incredibly nervous,” Crader believes the lack of clarinets auditioning could work to his advantage.
“I guess given the numbers that they have already and the numbers that are trying out [at the second auditions] … I guess my chances are better,” Crader said, since “they’re going to need a lot of clarinets.”
Though the process of being selected for the ensemble can prove difficult, Wind Ensemble members believe the challenge is necessary and worth it. Although the music the Wind Ensemble plays is much more difficult than the Symphonic Band’s, junior Grant Flakne believes the overall challenge in the Wind Ensemble experience makes the group more fun, and he avidly encourages students to try out for a spot in the band.
“In Symphonic Band, there are quite a few people who honestly cannot play. We have people that do not play. That is not the case in Wind Ensemble,” Flakne said. And “in Symphonic Band, students play music that is way below their level because there are those people that cannot play any better than that. But in Wind Ensemble, it’s like the music is actually challenging. Everyone [in Wind Ensemble] is at such a high level that you can do more, and you can learn different things.”
By Alyssa Sykuta