Four Mustangs earn first-chair honors

20 local students play at All-State Music Festival


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(Left to right) Chugiak band members Rebekah Jensen (alto clarinet), Mark Landon (trumpet), Kody Trombley (euphonium) and Dane Breitung (alto and soprano saxaphone) were recently named first chair at the Alaska All-State Music Festival. Jensen, Landon and Breitung are sophomores; Trombley is a senior.

Star photo by Matt Tunseth

For the fourth straight year, Chugiak High sent more band students to the All State Music Festival than any other high school in Alaska.

This year, Chugiak sent 11 band members, four orchestra members and one choir member to the gala concert at West Anchorage High on Nov. 19. Eagle River had four students go to the festival.  

Four Chugiak students earned first-chair honors. Here’s a look at each student:

 

Mark Landon

In his first All State concert, sophomore Mark Landon was named first chair trumpet. Landon said his audition was nerve-racking, and receiving the top honor came as a complete shock.

“It was kind of a huge surprise,” he said. “Of course, I was really happy.”

Landon, who started playing trumpet in sixth grade, said he practices at least 30 minutes every day outside of school.

Landon’s dream is to become a professional musician.

“I would like to be a symphony member,” he said.

Earning first-chair for trumpet and alto saxophone — which sophomore Dane Breitung achieved — is impressive for underclassmen, Chugiak band teacher Mike Martinson said.

“To get it as a sophomore, that never happens,” he said.

Described as a quiet leader by Martinson, Landon has logged more practice hours than any student Martinson has taught.

“When he started here, he was not the player he is now,” Martinson said. “He’s the typical result of a lot, a lot of practice.”

The same is true of Breitung.

“They practice more than any student I’ve ever had,” Martinson said. “When I give out new music, they’re like hungry wolves.”

 

Dane Breitung

Breitung doubled his first-chair honors this year from when he was a freshman. Last year, Breitung was first chair baritone saxophone. This year, he was first chair alto and soprano sax.

Tenor saxophone is also in Breitung’s arsenal of musical instruments.

“If you play one saxophone, you play them all,” he said.

All State only takes one soprano sax, so Breitung knew he had first chair upon being accepted. But alto drew fierce competition, Breitung said.

“It was very relieving to find out I had got first,” he said.

Breitung, who’s been playing sax for five years, also plays the clarinet and used to play the piano. He said he practices two to three hours a day on the weekends, but not too much during the school week.

Pursuing music beyond high school is high on Breitung’s to-do list.

“I would definitely like to play music in college,” he said.

Breitung said he wants to either minor or major in music. If he decides to make it his main focus, Breitung said he would become a performance major.

Breitung’s commitment to practice results in his ability to play flawlessly, Martinson said, which is not lost on the rest of the band.

“His greatest contribution to us is he’s thought of the kid who can play anything,” Martinson said. “They tease him because he never misses anything.”

 

Rebekah Jensen

Sophomore Rebekah Jensen only started playing alto clarinet this year, and she earned first-chair honors at All State.

With only one alto clarinet accepted, Jensen said she was stunned at her selection.

“I was surprised that I got into All State,” she said.

Jensen’s been playing the soprano clarinet since sixth grade, and the transition to the larger instrument was easy, she said.

“The fingering is the same,” Jensen said.

Jensen said her mom played clarinet, which got her interested in the instrument. Jensen started playing soprano clarinet in sixth grade.

Jensen said she hasn’t given much thought to pursuing music in college, but wants to keep her skills sharp in the future.

“It’d be fun to continue,” she said. “I don’t want to lose the ability.

Positive feedback from others who participated at All State pushed Jensen to tryout.

“I had been told it would be the best day of my life,” she said.

And the experience didn’t disappoint.

“I had an amazing time,” Jensen said.

Afterwards, Martinson said Jensen thanked him for pushing her to audition.

“She’s such a sweet, sweet kid,” he said.

Martinson said Jensen is a great leader among the younger band members.

Jensen is humble when it comes to her musical talent, Martinson said.

“She’s extremely modest,” he said. “She has no idea how good she is.”

 

Kody Trombley

This year marked senior Kody Trombley’s fourth consecutive All State concert and second straight year as first chair euphonium. He earned second-chair honors as a freshman and sophomore.

Trombley, who started playing euphonium in sixth grade, said he looks forward to All State every year.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Just being there is really worthwhile. It’s something you’ll never forget, and I’ve had the luxury of doing it four years in a row.”

The euphonium is his main instrument, but Trombley said he can also play trombone and trumpet.

“I can play just about any brass instrument,” he said.

Trombley said he wants to pursue music after high school and is currently preparing for college auditions. Trombley said he plans to major in music performance or music education.

Trombley, the 2011 Cook Inlet Conference lineman of the year, said he also wants to play football at the collegiate level.

“He’s a very musical kid who also loves football,” Martinson said.

Just as the Mustangs looked to Trombley for guidance on the gridiron, so, too, does the band, Martinson said.

“He’s a leader,” Martinson said. “He just has a lot of charisma.”

 

Great experience

Martinson said he pushes his students to tryout for All State because of its value. Playing with nearly 100 students from around the state is nothing like high school band, he said.

“It’s so different because it’s huge,” Martinson said. “They’re all very top-notch players.”

Landon can relate.

“It’s really overwhelming,” he said. “It made you feel really small.”

All the musicians are dedicated and have the ability to carry out the conductor’s orders, Jensen said.

“It’s definitely a different level,” Trombley said. “I remember when I was a freshman and was totally blown away — and we were just warming up.”

Many students decide to make music a career goal after All State, Martinson said.

“A lot of kids decide after All State, ‘I want to become a musician,’” he said.

While that’s not his goal, Martinson said All State has an “invigorating effect” on students.

Playing music with kids from all over the state was one of the best parts of All State, Breitung said.

“It’s really cool to meet people from different parts of Alaska,” he said.

While Landon, Breitung, Jensen and Trombley are each leaders and talented musicians, they’re also enjoyable to have in class, Martinson said.

“All four are great, great kids,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to teach those guys. It really is.”

2011 All State Music Festival participants

Chugiak High:

Susan Fleurant, Kennedy Kurchoski, Rebekah Jensen, Robert Meyer, Dane Breitung, David McPhetres, Mark Landon, Daniel Bozone, Jack Pappas, Kody Trombley, Christian Yeargan, Nathan Dennis, Jared Caiazza, Sijo Smith, Kalyn Price, Kevin Greco.

Eagle River High:

Katie Galang, Nick Prosak, Wolfgang Olsson, Andrew Christian.

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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