Story by Annalise Bassett
As the bell rings at the end of seventh period, hundreds of kids pour out of classrooms and head to their cars, the car rider line, or their buses, but the day is not over for many student musicians.
Freshman Reagan Schmidt unpacks her trombone in preparation for trombone choir practice. She also has a private lesson that night, and two practices later in the week for trombone quartet, as well as tuba and euphonium quartet. On top of that, she has three solos to practice for. She is taking all three ensembles and all three solos to the Indiana State School Music Association [ISSMA] state solo/ensemble contest.
Last weekend, on Feb. 22, the vocal and piano event was held at Perry Meridian Middle School in Indianapolis. Tomorrow, on Feb. 29, the woodwind, brass, and percussion players have their event at North Central High School in Indianapolis, while the string players have their event at Northview Middle School in Indianapolis.
Schmidt, who plays trombone, euphonium, and tuba, has gone to state contest twice, but this year, she is most excited to push herself and to do more for state than she ever has before.
“I am most excited [to perform] all of my events. I’m doing more events than I’ve ever done this year, so it’ll be fun to test my limits,” said Schmidt.
Other students, such as sophomore Cadence Wehneman, are excited to see results.
“I’m most excited to see how my ensemble does at state. We got a good score at district, and I’m excited to see how far we can go,” said Wehneman, who plays trumpet.
For students who have never gone to state before this year, like junior Hunter Marlow, state brings an opportunity to learn for next time.
“I’m excited to see other groups and get criticism, so I can have ideas on what to do differently next year,” said Marlow, who is in choir and went to vocal state solo/ensemble last Saturday, Feb. 22.
By contrast, students who have done state solo/ensemble before, especially for more than one year, generally push themselves to bring even more to state every year.
“I have done state solo and ensemble for four years. In my first year, I performed in one ensemble, then I played in two ensembles and one solo each for my sophomore and junior years,” said senior Elliott Lonneman, who plays violin. “This year, I am playing in four state events, since I managed to get a gold on my three ensemble events and one solo event at district.”
Students can start doing district solo/ensemble in middle school. As soon as a musician performs a Group I piece, the hardest piece one can play, and receives a gold rating, they can move on to state.
“I have done solo and ensemble since seventh grade. That year, I brought a solo and a quartet, the next, a solo and a trio. Once I got to high school, my section did a large choir both years, and I brought another solo each year,” said Wehneman.
As musicians grow, they get more opportunities to go to state, either by participating in more events or by learning more and getting better. The experience of going to state can be different from year-to-year, because students know what to expect.
“State is a very different experience. The entire event is much bigger and there are many other things going on,” said Wehneman. “State was a bit more stressful for me last year, since it was my first time going, but I’m excited to have the experience again.”
State contest is a lot more stressful than district. Lonneman said that judges critique your work even more at state than at district.
“State solo and ensemble is different because your judges at state have even higher expectations for you than your judges at district. They will be more critical of you and will pay more attention to how you play,” said Lonneman. “However, given the amount of time you put in to qualify for state, your performances will most likely be successful.”
Between the ISSMA district and state solo/ensemble events, student musicians ramp up their practicing, both in amount and how tough they are on themselves. Students can also use the district judges’ comments to strengthen their abilities before state.
“For district, I tried to practice for at least an hour and a half each day. For state, I’m practicing for about the same amount of time, but I’m using the [district] judge’s comments to get a better idea of what to fix,” said Schmidt.
As musicians throughout FC finish up after-school practices, they leave the building and head home, ready for the big event. For all of them, the hard work they all put in is what truly impacts them most.
“The thing that I enjoy most about state is when you go in the room and do your best,” said Schmidt. “No matter what happens during the performance, you know that you’ve worked hard to get to the place you are. That’s what matters.”