What It Feels Like to Be an All-State Musician

///As Told By Taylor Braun///
What It Feels Like to Be an All-State Musician

Since I joined band as a clarinetist in 5th grade, I have been a very active participant. I have done many honor bands throughout my musical career, I go to a private tutor weekly, I am a section leader for the clarinets and I even play tenor saxophone for jazz band. Even though I enjoy all of these activities, I have always strived to challenge myself even more. To get to this new level of musical experience, I decided to try out for All-State Concert Band.

At first, I didn’t know the scale of what All-State is. My freshman year, I thought, I’m going to do this, and I’m going to get in, and it’s going to be great. It hit me pretty hard when I realized how the process actually worked. That year, I got a recall, but I didn’t move on past that. Since then, I’ve been trying to do better to prevent that kind of disappointment.

My sophomore year, I decided to audition again. I chose to prepare even harder. I began rehearsing my études, the short songs every person with the instrument will play, in July. I also had an individual solo that I practiced with my tutor. Luckily, my scales have been with me throughout band, but I still had to practice them because in All-State, they are just as important as the solo. I worked with my teacher for about an hour a week, and then I would play at home by breaking up the songs into small sections and working my way slowly through the music. Most of the pieces are really challenging because they want to weed out the kids like freshman me.

When it comes to the day of auditions, you dress up and practice a big portion of the day. Where auditions are held, there is a ginormous room with everybody warming up in it, and it’s extremely chaotic. During your audition time, you go into the room and play two parts of the études, then you play exactly a minute of your chosen solo. You also draw a random card with two scales on it and play them, followed by the chromatic scale. While the audition isn’t very long, the day itself is. We usually arrive at the school around 6 and get back about 12 hours later. The length of the day makes the result even more suspenseful. In my sophomore year, I got a recall, where I performed for judges again, and they decided to give me a spot in the band. I got ranked 14th chair out of the second clarinet part. When I saw that I was chosen, it was a pure joyful moment. I wanted it so bad and worked hard for it, so knowing that my hard work paid off made it a moment of great celebration.

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After finding out that I got in, I began to prepare for the actual performance. When the concert finally came, it was in the large Hilton Coliseum. The band has 300 people, so the room needs to be big to accommodate it. After a couple of speeches, either the band or orchestra plays 4-5 pieces. Then, the choir sings, and either the band or the orchestra finishes the concert, depending on who went first. The whole concert is usually a little longer than an hour. At both the concert and the auditions, I follow my dad, ADM’s band director, as he knows what he is doing. While he is not normally more involved with helping me in particular, when it comes to All-State day, he is there micromanaging everything because I often don’t know what’s happening. He knows all the rules and the people, so we just play wherever he tells us to go.

This year, my junior year, I decided to audition again. I went through all the steps: practicing with my tutor, learning my études, picking a solo and performing for the judges. Yet again, I got recalled and was selected to play the first clarinet part. Even though it wasn’t the first time I had auditioned, there was still a hint of doubt about being picked for the band. No matter how well I do, I always think, what if my name isn’t on that list? Thankfully, it has been for the past two years.

While I am obviously ecstatic to get to play in the band again, there is still quite a bit of stress that goes into it. This year, I am nervous about the chair placement auditions that take place two days before the concert. During this, you have to re-audition to find out what chair you will play in. If you are the 1st chair, you are the best player. If you are the 25th chair, you are the worst player in that part. In the clarinets, there are three parts, and each part has 25 chairs. I want a good chair placement, so I get fairly nervous about that. This year, it is my goal to be in one of the first 14 chairs. Nearly every other person there is as good as me or better, so chair placements for All-State are on a whole different level.

Not only is All-State an extreme honor, but it is so remarkable to be a part of. This year, I am looking forward to hearing the sound that the band makes. At the concert, we do something called build-a-band where the brass plays a note and we slowly add on every other instrument. It’s amazing because you have a fully balanced, fully tuned, automatic band. There is a gorgeous sound, and that’s not even you playing songs, that’s just you making noises. The first moment of playing is really incredible. It’s nothing like I have ever experienced before.

The All-State Music Festival is in Ames on November 18th at 7:30 p.m. It will be aired on PBS this Thanksgiving at 7:00 p.m.

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