Sweet music: Green Forest, Berryville students earn spots in All-Region Band
By Kelby Newcomb
The Green Forest School District hosted the high school All-Region Band Auditions on Saturday, Jan. 12, and several Green Forest and Berryville students qualified and will be performing in the All-Region Band concert Saturday, Jan. 20, at Bentonville West High School Performing Arts Center.
Green Forest had several high school and middle school students qualify for All-Region Band, and many will have the chance to audition for All-State Band this February as well.
High schoolers Elisha Piatt, Kevin Solorzano and Henry Holtkamp all qualified for All-State Band auditions. Piatt received third chair for clarinets in First Band for All-Region. Solorzano received third chair for trombones in First Band, and Holtkamp received eighth chair for percussion in First Band.
High schoolers Eliza Ponce, Austin Booth and Toño Mendez all qualified as All-State Band alternates. Ponce and Booth received fourth and second chairs for clarinets in Second Band for All-Region, and Mendez received third chair for saxophones in Second Band.
High schoolers Angel Garza, who plays clarinet, and Mason Dunham-McCreary, who plays trombone, both qualified as first alternates for All-Region band.
Middle schoolers Celest Mattix and Alex Leal received 13th chair for clarinets and first chair for baritone saxophone in First Band for Junior High All-Region Band, and Lyndsy Enriquez, who plays oboe, was named second alternate.
Band directors Sarah and Jon Taylor said this was also the first year Green Forest hosted All-Region auditions.
“We have a big region-wide meeting at the end of the school year,” Jon Taylor said, “and every year schools say ‘I’m willing to do this.’ We’ve had this discussion about central locations because our region stretches from Gravette all the way to Mountain Home. That’s pretty spread out.”
He continued, “I grabbed the phone and called my principal and said ‘Would you be willing to open the campus?’ He gave me permission, so I basically told them we would be willing to house either of the two tryouts. The junior high band has so many kids that try out. The campus isn’t big enough, but we were willing to host for the high school tryouts.”
He said it was a fun experience to host the competition.
“It was a learning experience for me and Sarah,” Jon Taylor said. “We learned a lot of what not to do and knocked some bugs out of the system. We had a good time.”
He said Sarah was instrumental in getting community members and teachers to volunteer to help with the auditions.
“She went around and asked teachers if they would be willing to give up a Saturday morning to be a room monitor and things like that,” he said. “Most teachers agreed to give up their room, but they wanted to be the room monitor in their own room.”
The students said preparing for All-Region auditions takes months of hard work.
“Everyone has to work on prepared material and scales,” Solorzano said, “and you have to show that you’re confident in being able to read music on the spot. Me and Mason had to prepare three different pieces. It took hours of practice. I practiced more this year than I have in past years for state and region combined.”
“It took about six or seven months for me to get as skilled as I am,” said Piatt.
Holtkamp said there is a lot of lead-up to All-Region.
“You start at the beginning of the year while you’re working on marching,” he said, “and stay after school to practice your stuff.”
Booth said students get the music for next year’s All-Region Band the day after tryouts.
“You can start practicing a year in advance,” he said.
“That’s what I’m doing,” Leal said.
“Alex got First Band First Chair for junior high,” said Sarah Taylor, “and he’s wanting to go up to high school and do that again.”
Holtkamp said it was pretty exciting to qualify for All-Region Band.
“This is the first time I’ve ever qualified for All-State tryouts,” he said. “It felt pretty good.”
“This is my third time trying to go to All-State,” Piatt said. “Hopefully I make it this time!”
“Getting to go there and experiencing it is really cool,” Booth said. “In the school setting, working on music can be very slow, but there everyone is very dedicated. It’s a great learning experience to put something together that quickly, and it sounds really good.”
Solorzano said the students get to play with the best musicians the region has to offer.
“You get to meet musicians who are better than you and learn from them,” Leal said. “I want to go see the high school band as well.”
Mattix said the experience can be scary for first-time students.
“I’ve never been in a competition,” she said, “so I’ve never really met dedicated clarinet players other than my classmates. It can be intimidating.”
Sarah Taylor said many of the students are seniors and will be attending All-Region for the final time.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet thing for them,” she said. “I’ve been working with this senior class since seventh grade, so they’re truly like family. When they achieve this, I feel even more proud of them than just as their band director.”
She continued, “For the younger ones, like Lyndsy in particular who is a seventh-grader, even making alternate is spectacular. They just got done learning how to put their instruments together and how to play them.”
Jon Taylor said the Green Forest band program has been growing over the years.
“When it grows, the individual growth is the most phenomenal,” he said. “These kids practice on their own and work on their own music. It’s not us working with them. It’s them taking the tools they learn from us and applying them. We help them tweak and fine-tune, but when it comes down to it, if they don’t put in the individual effort, then they won’t make it.”
Berryville High School seniors Alex Maldonado and Jared Soto qualified for All-Region Band. Maldonado received third chair for trumpets in First Band, and Soto received fifth chair for clarinets in Second Band.
Maldonado said preparing for All-Region auditions means a lot of rehearsal and becoming familiar with the music.
“I’ve participated in All-Region since my seventh grade year,” he said, “so for me it was really just looking at the music for a few weeks, becoming familiar with it and practicing.”
“I’ve only been to All-Region once or twice,” Soto said. “We practice the music that we’re given, and they test us on the material. You should be practicing a few months before so that you’re really prepared.”
Maldonado said they have to play from the prepared pieces, play a few scales from memory and complete a sight-reading portion at the auditions.
“For me, All-Region Band isn’t really the goal,” he said. “I want to make it to All-State again and place in the first band. It felt good to be this high of a chair, but i’m kind of disappointed I didn’t get first chair.”
“I didn’t qualify for All-State, but I was still excited to hear that I made a chair that high,” Soto said.
Maldonado said the All-State auditions in February will be even more competitive.
“All-State is where every single detail matters because it’s a few points that will separate you from the person behind you,” he said, “and everyone that’s going to All-State will do everything they can to beat you because it’s extremely competitive. You give it all you’ve got.”
He said he is excited for the opportunity to play with a band full of musicians who love music as much as he does.
“I enjoy the idea of getting to work with other musicians who worked to get where they are,” Soto said, “and to meet new people. I’m most excited to play different types of music.”