For the majority of students that play music in band programs across the state of North Carolina, the All-State clinic might seem like a bit of a long shot. However for some schools in the state, this dream is much closer to reality. One such school is North Buncombe High, whose band program has been placing students into the All-State program for over thirty years. But the band program there didn’t foster this much success overnight. It takes hours of practice, preparation and many years of experience from the students in the band, to make the program live up to the standards of the increasingly competitive art that is instrumental music.
Needless to say, it takes an impressive amount of work to get to the All-State program, and most of the time it involves juggling a ton of responsibility. From practicing two or three hours a night, to rehearsals for jazz band, brass quintet, or the spring musical, hours upon hours of homework and chores, and then working a few shifts of a job, it can seem like an impossible task. But this goes to show how dedicated these talented teens are. Band members at other schools might scoff at how much work making All-State brings to the table, but at North Buncombe High School the stakes are high, and the triumph of making the band is worth the stress and a few occasional tears.
The audition process can be an obstacle in itself, and is a bit intimidating to aspiring students at both the Middle and High School level. To be eligible to even audition for the All-State band there are several prerequisites. A student must have both auditioned and made their respective All-District band, AND be in the top ten percent of the band, which is a feat in its own right. To participate in the All-District ensembles, students prepare an etude to showcase their musicality and precision to a panel of judges. The judges are band directors who are highly skilled in their craft. They score each student in relation to how well they perform. In addition, the students must demonstrate accuracy and tone by playing scales, and must prove their ability to sight-read a piece for the first time. If that seems daunting than double the stress for All-State. The process is the same except that all of the students have accomplished all of the aforementioned goals themselves, meaning the difficulty is ramped up substantially. It speaks to the merit of North Buncombe’s program and its students that they have consistently had students participate in this prestigious ensemble.
Many of the students practice the material several months in advance to insure that they perform to their absolute best ability. The process takes an extraordinary amount of discipline and patience. Some students ask for help from their band directors and take private lessons. Others listen to music incessantly, and others practice multiple hours a day. But one commonality between all of the students who make it exists. They all work hard and show dedication. All-State serves not only to educate students about music, but also teaches them valuable life lessons about hard work. The program offers the students a chance to meet new people and learn how to work with others to achieve an ultimate goal that is bigger than one person, and also just make good music. North Buncombe’s band program has helped foster the growth of the students there as both people and musicians through All-State band, and continues to light the way for future musicians.