By: Yilin Liang
Each year, the California Band Director’s Association (CBDA) holds auditions for the All-State Honor Orchestra and Bands. Students vie for a spot in these musical groups and travel to perform at the CBDA’s annual convention in Fresno on Feb. 16 to 19.
Senior clarinetist Danny Wallace, sophomores clarinetist Kelsey Chan and flutist Joyce Wen will play in the Honor Band. Junior string bassist Ethan Kim will play in the Honor Orchestra. During the convention, students in the Honor Band audition for seating arrangements and a spot in the Wind Symphony, Symphonic Band or Concert Band based on skill. The Honor Orchestra and Bands will rehearse under guest conductors in preparation for the final performance.
Kim was in Honor Orchestra last year and auditioned because of the high skill level. “Last year, I wanted to see how good of a bassist I was, so I auditioned for All-State,” he said. “I surprised myself by getting in and I had a lot of fun there.”
Kim is the only Gunn string musician to make Honor Orchestra. He will play Graeme Koehne’s “Elevator Music” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” “‘Elevator Music’ sounds like it could be a soundtrack from a Hollywood action or fantasy movie,” he said. “‘Firebird’ is a really cool ballet piece about a mystical glowing bird. I’m excited to playing ‘Firebird’. As a bassist, I don’t get many exciting parts, but I think this piece will make me want to practice a lot because it sounds pretty difficult and dynamic.”
Chan auditioned for All-State Honor Bands for several reasons. “The guest conductors are always very experienced, and participating in Honor Band is a great way to learn more about playing with musicality as an ensemble,” she said. Chan is part of Wind Ensemble. “In Gunn band, we focus a lot on the balance between different sections and listening to what different instruments add to the music,” she said. “Playing in an ensemble is very different from playing solo.”
Wallace also decided to participate in the All-State Honor Band due to the high standards of the organization, “I auditioned for All-State because I really enjoy playing with excellent musicians, and being surrounded by talented people compels me to become a better player,” he said. “Plus, preparing the audition piece is a good way to improve, because the audition material is usually very difficult.”
Apart from his Honor Band performance, Wallace will also work on his own solo music. “My private teacher conducts orchestra and she is going to feature me as a soloist at one of her concerts,” he said. “I will be playing a clarinet concerto written by Leroy Osmon.”
Wen auditioned for All-State Bands due to her love for the flute. “Flute is one of my main interests, and All-State is a major event for youth musicians,” she wrote in an email. Though Wen began with the piano, she later quit to continue playing flute. “Flute just seemed perfect because it matched my personality, and I loved its sound the first time I heard it,” she wrote.
Wen has been part of Wind Ensemble since her freshman year and believes her experiences in band have helped her further develop her skills as a musician. “Gunn band has taught me how to blend my sound when playing in large ensembles,” she wrote. “In addition, it has improved my site reading skills, with the wide variety of repertoire we cover.”