'A goldmine of talent'
Twenty-two Chugiak High School band, orchestra and choir students performed at this year’s All-State Music Festival held Nov. 21-22 at Bartlett and West high schools.
Of those, seven received first-chair honors, including Kiana Gates (violin), Rebekah Jensen (alto clarinet), Dane Breitung (alto saxophone), David Stockhouse (tenor saxophone), Caleb Huntington (baritone saxophone), Noel Glenn (bassoon) and Mark Landon (trumpet).
The festival, which is the exclusive of the high school music arena, includes two days of intense 12-hour rehearsals.
Students must audition for a festival chair invitation. According to band director Mike Martinson, competition is fierce.
“We practice on and off for about a month,” he said.
Approximately half of the Chugiak students who tried out were accepted.
“The audition music is very difficult and advanced,” Martinson said. “It’s college level. Most high students could not play at All-State.”
Chugiak typically has the highest number of chairs, along with the highest percentage of chairs per student capita. This year, 12 band, eight orchestra and two choir students were invited to the festival.
“Last year we had four, and I thought we were doing good,” said orchestra instructor Jean Lenoir. “This year, with eight, I was really pleased.”
“We have great kids,” Martinson agreed. “It’s a goldmine of talent.”
Alto saxophonist David Stockhouse didn’t expect to make first chair last year. After he did, he found this year’s expectations heightened.
“The conductor was definitely different this year,” he said. “He was more down to earth and in sync with the kids.”
Naella Lundell, who has played cello for six years, experienced nerves at the beginning of the performance.
“But mostly I was glad to be there. You’re playing with the best people from across the state,” she said.
This was Mark Landon’s third year as first-chair trumpeter. The audition, he said, is nerve-racking.
“It’s unpredictable. I left the audition feeling that it was pretty good but I also thought, ‘I’m not going to get my hopes up,’” he said. “You have to remember that it’s just one thing and that there will be many more things that you will do well.”
Junior trombone player Gunnar Davis practiced his audition piece over and over, concentrating on the trouble spots.
“You don’t have an idea of what the judicator wants. It’s all about trying your best on what you record and hoping the judge likes it,” he said.
He admitted to being nervous before the festival first chair auditions.
“We sat down and played the first note and it was so amazing.”
Dane Breitung first chaired in alto saxophone.
“Before I played, I was incredibly nervous. I wasn’t that prepared because I had been pre-screening auditions for colleges and that took precedence over a three-day festival,” he said. “I was elated when I was awarded first chair.”
This was Ashleigh Bransky’s first year playing viola at All-State.
“I was really excited the whole time,” she said. “I started counting the days down two months ahead. The concert was the most fun, and hearing everyone play together.”
Rebekah Jensen first chaired in alto clarinet, an instrument she said is “kind of going extinct.”
“A lot of composers don’t write for it. They only accept one alto clarinet and you’re almost guaranteed first chair.”
The concert is like nothing else, she said.
“To be part of something like that, with everyone playing in prefect form, it really makes your adrenaline run.”
2013 All State Music Festival
Choir: Jimmy Lanier, Trevor Spackman.
Orchestra: Kiana Gates, Daniel Schlehofer, Emily Jensen, Sijo Smith, Naella Lundell, Katie Bozone, Clare Cook, Ashleigh Bransky.
Band: Garett Granado, Rebekah Jensen, Liz Swan, Noel Glenn, Dane Breitung, David Stockhouse, Celeb Huntington, Mark Landon, James Anderson, Gunnar Davis, Paul Straub, Austin Lewis.
First chairs: Kiana Gates, violin; Rebekah Jensen, alto clarinet; Dane Breitung, alto saxophone, David Stockhouse, tenor saxophone; Caleb Huntington, baritone saxophone; Noel Glenn, bassoon; Mark Landon, trumpet.
Eagle River High
Catherine Goolsby, flute. Dana Bernhardt (alternate), flute.