A celebration of music, MMEA hosts All-State band


Justin Sutherland

It is more than just a duty. It is more than just pride in your work. It is more than honor; it is an experience of a lifetime. After hard work and dedication to their musical talents, seven students at RBHS went to the convention held by the Missouri Music Educators Association. These students went to Tan-Tar-A, a resort at the Lake of the Ozarks from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25 to participate in an experience for the best in the high school musicians in Missouri featuring accomplished and professional musicians along with professors.
[tabs][tab title=”Setting the Tempo”] [heading]‘When I ended up getting in, I felt honored to be there and also very relieved’[/heading]
[dropcap style=”flat” size=”2.4″]I[/dropcap]n this day and age, one out of 10 becomes a statistic that is exceptional, whether it be good or bad. For student’s who did State Band, that statistic turned out exceptional instead of dismal. After performing in the district honor band, the number of students who get in to the state honor band drops to this drastic statistic because of the vast number of students who try out.
“They get over, I think, 1100 students auditioning from all over the state,” Band Director Steve Mathews said. “For Rock Bridge to get seven out of a little over a hundred, that’s very good.”
For senior alto saxophone player Stephanie Bonham, getting into State Band which spans all high school grades was not only a sense of pride and accomplishment, but also an experience she will never forget.
“I’ve just always done the district/state audition process since the 9th grade. Preparing the material helps your technical ability,” Bonhomme said. “Also because I study privately, it was never really a question [of trying out.]”
Senior trumpeter Daniel Shapiro also felt as though trying out was a “no-brainer” for him. Secondarily, he had an added pressure of renewing his spot in the honorable first chair for trumpets that he received his junior year and also making it in his sophomore year as well. With the audition process changing from live performances to taped recordings supplemented in Shapiro’s anxiety of getting in.
“I thought I turned in a decent tape, but I wasn’t as happy with it as I thought I should have been,” Shapiro said. “Plus, it’s disorienting not knowing what your competition is doing or how they sound. When I ended up getting in, I felt honored to be there and also very relieved.”

Meeting together, the All-State Band practices for their performance to come on Jan. 25 Photo provided by
Meeting together, the All-State Band practices for their performance to come Jan. 25.
Photo by Emily Franke
[/tab] [tab title=” Practice makes Perfect  “] [heading]‘Its sort of your everyday run-of-the-mill band class… on steroids’[/heading]
[dropcap style=”flat” size=”2.4″]W[/dropcap]ith rehearsals starting every day at or around 9:00 a.m, for most students it was just like waking up for a typical school day, if not a slight bit of sleeping in for those with earlier start times than RBHS. These practices last about two hours, in which they attempted to master their parts for the performance to come on Saturday.
“It’s sort of your everyday run-of-the-mill band class on steroids,”  Bonham said. “It’s a total of about 6 hours each day instead of an hour and a half every other day and the director and band are generally more focused and driven than in high school band class.”
Coming into the band with the songs mostly understood speeds the rehearsals along as they go through practice. However, the time frame of the day is stretched out to go into late hours of the night, such as a “lovingly” named practice called the “midnight special” by the director, Mallory Thompson, that tied in a picture session for the students.
“The practices are intense. We rehearse for a total of about six hours a day and they often go until midnight or some ungodly hour at which I do not enjoy playing,” Shapiro said. “The directors always work us hard and it can be exhausting, but the music and people are worth it.”

“They often go until midnight or some ungodly hour at which I do not enjoy playing.”
-Daniel Shapiro

The pressure of playing perfectly, down to even the sixteenth notes, resides for students similar to Shapiro. Once he made it in State Band his sophomore year, he felt as though once he made a mistake someone would scrutinize his abilities as a musician. Perfection was his goal; however, with the piece’s difficulty that year it was difficult to attain.
“Our main piece that year was a 15 min. modern concerto that had crazy mixed meter stuff and some strange sounding notes,” Shapiro said. “I felt like if I did anything even slightly wrong people would laugh at me.”
With all of these practices, time constrained for the participants in state band, especially if their group of instruments needed additional practice, as asked by the director. Despite this, students still found time to enjoy time to spend relaxing in various ways offered at Tan-Tar-A[/tab] [tab title=” Measures of Rest “] [heading]‘You can go swimming, go exercise, go bowling or whatever you want really’[/heading]
[dropcap style=”flat” size=”2.4″]H[/dropcap]aving six hours of the day taken up with these band practices, 18 hours are left for sleep, eating and time allotted for your choosing. Tan-Tar-A offers an extensive list of things to do spanning from arcades to exhibits to weight rooms. Whatever one chooses, the rest helps prepare for the impending practices that come throughout the day.
“I have to eat meals for one thing, but I also went down to the exhibits where they were showing and selling various musical items,” Shapiro said. “You can go swimming, go exercise, go bowling or whatever you want really.”
Outside of the resources presented by Tan-Tar-A and MMEA’s exhibits with instruments, fund-raising, uniforms and costumes, and colleges who advertise for you to come to their school. Professionals also perform pieces of music throughout the resort, allowing students to experience and listen to what it takes to go into music as a profession.
“I went to a couple of concerts,” Shapiro said. “There are some really good groups there, like the University of Missouri- St. Louis. Those guys could play. And I also love jazz, so it was awesome.”
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[/tab] [tab title=” Watch for the Cut-off “] [heading]‘Everyone has a lens through which they view the world. At MMEA, that lens is music’[/heading]
[dropcap style=”flat” size=”2.4″]P[/dropcap]erforming on Jan. 25 means one thing for the students who participated in MMEA: the end is near. Though many miss their time their, reflecting on it, some say it changed them in ways that can be hard to explain.
“Personally, I’ve grown not only as a musician but as a person due to my experiences in the All-State Band,” Bonham said. “That’s due largely to the director’s wisdom and ability to relate to students through music. Everyone has a lens through which they view the world. At MMEA, that lens is music.”
The performance itself isn’t just another few pieces of music that will later fall by the wayside, unimportant and useless. The performance becomes a thing of beauty, timelessness and is a celebration in and of itself.
“On one hand, capable students have the opportunity to work under accomplished musicians and professors, which is a lot of work,” Bonham said. “On the other hand, we get the chance to be a part of something so much larger than ourselves: something beautiful and emotional that is sometimes difficult to experience in a traditional school setting.”
Playing for others who enjoy music fuels these All-State participants to perform even better as well. Even when you miss a note here or there, the audience still cheers and admires the hard work the young high-school students have put into it.
“There’s a neat interaction between [the band] and the audience,” Shapiro said. “Music makes the audience react and the result gives you a great feeling.”
Though the time drew near for the cut-off to fall for the band, the thrill didn’t end once the music did. It was a jubilee of emotions that couldn’t stop because of the end of a piece of music.
“Our director this year described the performance as a celebration, and that’s how I tend to view it,” Bonham said. “The conference is a celebration of music and musicians in Missouri, and the state band is one part of it.”
[/tab] [/tabs] By Justin Sutherland