The Booster

The Clock Starts Now

Jaden Wood, Sophomore Staff Writer

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You’re standing in a tiny hallway of cold tile and bleak fluorescent lighting with approximately a dozen other individuals. The anxiety in the atmosphere is tangible as you wait outside a foreign classroom with your concert instrument in hand.   They are all there for you and your months of dedicated practice.  You know that your talent is sure and sound as you wait to lay your heart and soul on the line for everyone to hear.  The classroom door swings open, and you and your entourage of friends, acquaintances, and musical instructors quietly file in.  The door shuts behind you, and the spotlight is all yours. . . .

Scenarios such as the one above are a reality for many Abilene band students come the month of April:  solo/ensemble season.  Each school year, band students are offered the opportunity to take a solo or create an ensemble to perform at festival in front of a judge, which takes place on a Saturday at Manhattan High School.

Solo and ensemble music is selected for each student or group of students in the early weeks of second semester by the band director Aaron Tompkins.  He sets aside hours upon hours of his personal time to sort through the band’s sheet music archives with the goal of finding the perfect piece for each soloist and ensemble.  During his search, Mr. Tompkins always keeps their specific abilities and musical personality in mind as he aims to find the piece that will give each student the best chance of scoring a superior I rating (V being the lowest), but also serve as a personal challenge for musical growth.  It is a tedious process, but Mr. Tompkins’ long hours of dedication to his students is usually paid off for by the time to perform comes around.  Once solo and ensemble music is selected, most band students hit the ground running with their piece—there is no room for procrastination.

The way that solo/ensemble season works is slightly more competitive than one might assume.  To start with, only a select few students are actually permitted to take their selection to contest in April, and with Abilene’s enormous band of over one hundred members, making preliminary cuts is a must.  Each student looking to take a solo or ensemble to contest is required to submit a video recording of their practiced section to Mr. Tompkins where he is then forced to select the people who hold the most potential for success.  Once regional festival begins to draw closer, the selected students then work to finalize their performance with a piano accompanist before taking their piece to be judged on a scale of one to five; one being the best.

That process has yet to take place this year, but band students are already being prepared in class by practicing their sight reading skills as Mr. Tompkins begins his search for the ideal piece of music for each of his students.  As soon as the band students receive their assigned selection, the clock will be set, and April 14th will be their finish line.

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