They’ll toot their own horns, but you won’t hear them brag about it.
The Wyoming All-State Festival is about showcasing the state’s top high school band, choir and orchestra musicians. From Sunday through Tuesday, Campbell County has a chance show off its talent and community with the rest of the Cowboy State.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Campbell County High School Band Director Steve Oakley said. “It’s always a very cool event and it’s great for kids.”
There are 19 Campbell County School District students who will represent the community as all-state band and orchestra members. Fourteen are from Thunder Basin High School, three from Wright Junior-Senior High School and two from Campbell County in Shaunae Reynolds on clarinet and Ethan Ecert, a tenor singer.
“They are going to do amazing,” Oakley said. “We had two students make it and both of them are going to do an absolutely fantastic job.
“When you’re auditioning for these groups sometimes you make it, sometimes you don’t. It’s open to every high school student in the state so it’s a lot of competition to get into all-state.”
One section that was extremely competitive this year was saxophone, he said.
There might be 30 sax players who audition and only five or six are taken. The standard is extremely high. Two sax players from TBHS made it in: senior alto sax player Cole McDougald and senior tenor sax musician Jordan Westman.
To be selected “is huge for them to be able to make it,” TBHS band director Steve Schofield said.
Many of the local students who made to all-state groups are excited and nervous about the upcoming festival in their hometown. They understand the amount of hard work and dedication it will need to take to perform well at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Gillette College Pronghorn Center.
Connor Shedden, a senior, hadn’t auditioned for all-state until this year.
“To be honest, I never thought I would make it,” said the TBHS bass singer. “I couldn’t bring myself to do the auditions because I was too nervous.
“It’s a pretty good feeling to be selected because I was able to bring myself to do something and I actually did it. I never really expected it.”
McDougald, on the other hand, auditioned for all-state multiple times, but did not make it until now.
“It’s an achievement that I’ve been striving for ever since I started my band career,” he said, adding that making it “was a weight lifted off my shoulders. It was something I really wanted to be a part of because I’ve been working hard to be a part of this for the past few years. This year I finally broke through.
“You just have to be prepared. You really do have to practice because if you don’t practice, you will miss some of the key things that they are looking for in your playing.”
“They’re all really focused students that are wanting great experiences from this,” TBHS choir teacher Kim Garcia said. “They will work really hard for the directors.”
Preparing for the big show
The band, orchestra and choir students will spend their time rehearsing at TBHS and the Pronghorn Center ahead of Tuesday’s concert. The orchestra will perform first followed by the choir and band.
“I’m a little bit nervous,” said Josh Simon, TBHS sophomore and tenor singer. “I just hope that I could do a good job now that I actually got into it.”
TBHS senior alto singer Caitlyn Carson’s goals for the multi-day event include meeting new people and sharing her love of music with them.
“I’m super excited for it,” she said about being a part of the all-state choir. “It’s going to be incredible. I love being able to sing in a group and have this really, really amazing sound of everyone being cohesive.”
There is something about a group of people singing together “that makes me so happy,” Carson said.
The event also will give students a chance to soak up knowledge from their peers and music educators.
“I’m looking forward to seeing another director’s point of view on singing and them giving tips to improve my singing techniques,” said Chance Nice, TBHS senior tenor singer.
“I really hope to be able to enjoy it and also to be able to learn a lot from the music director, because every director has a different style,” said Danielle Jones, TBHS junior and alto singer.
Ethan Bishop is in his second all-state event. The TBHS senior trumpet player said he learned a lot from his first appearance.
“It’s really cool,” he said about all-state. “Not everybody gets to go to all-state. It’s kind of a cool experience. You get to be with some of the best musicians in the state.”
“I think it’s going to be a nice learning experience and it’s going to be really interesting to get to know some of my fellow players across the state and get to compare myself to people who are across the state,” he said.
Staying home to play
For Campbell County students, the local venue is a welcome reprieve from having to hit the road in January and taking a chance at getting into a showdown with Mother Nature.
“A part of me is excited because it makes it easier. Although, it would be nice to see some more of the state and see how other regions are,” Jones said about hosting all-state.
“I think it will be nice to do it in Gillette just because family can come and watch and they don’t have to travel out of their way to get to the middle of nowhere,” said Cameron Shearer, TBHS sophomore bass singer.
The all-state festival is more than an event to showcase the musical talents of students from across the state, it is also like a retreat or conference.
Thunder Basin High School will host a slew of activities that include music rehearsals for students and classes for state music educators. Jazz band directors from across Wyoming will participate in a clinic that will use the TBHS jazz band as a demo band.
“We’re the guinea pigs for a bunch of teachers on how you run a jazz band and how you teach a jazz band properly,” Westman said.
As for the student musicians, they will have a chance to unwind after rehearsals. Oakley is part of a committee that is in charge of student night, which will be from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Monday, the same time as the educators’ banquet.
Student night will consist of an evening at the Campbell County Recreation Center where they can unwind by hitting the weights, shooting hoops and enjoying a dinner and a movie.
“It’s a chance to show off our facilities,” Oakley said. “There are a lot of places around the state that don’t have these buildings. It’s kind of Campbell County’s way to show off a little bit.”
The beat goes on
When the dust clears it will be back to classrooms for the Campbell County students, and for some a return to thoughts on the future.
Shedden’s confidence has been swelling since taking trying out for and making all-state. He said he intends to try out for the University of Wyoming’s Thunder Marching Band after graduating from high school.
“Anyone can do it, anyone,” he said about people doing something important to them. “You just have to have the confidence to.”
Some students hope to pursue a career in music while others said they have other goals, but they have one thing in common in that music will always play some kind of role in their lives.
“Singing has taught me that if you begin every day with a song, it’s always better, because you always have a pep to your step and you’re always ready for the day when you start (off) with a good song,” Shearer said.