”Come on, let’s go!” I shouted to my mom. I jumped into the car with my flute and band binder before she even walked out the front door. I was so excited I could hardly stay in my seat.
It was Solo and Ensemble, a band competition that we do every year. I had done it last year, so I knew how it worked. A month prior to the competition, you would receive a solo and an ensemble to practice in class and at home. Then, on the day of Solo and Ensemble, you go in and play them in front of a judge, and they score you based on how well you played it.
There were four possible ratings that you could get on your solo and your ensemble: Excellent(the best), Good, Fair, and Needs Improvement. To get the best score, you need to play with a beautiful tone, get all of the articulations correct, and play the piece the way the composer would have wanted it to sound.
When we pulled up to Hill Country, I got out of the car and headed to the cafeteria to warm up. I met with all of my band friends and we had a fun time practicing our ensembles and showing off our solos for each other. My ensemble was first to perform, and we all got together to tune ourselves before we went into a separate room to play our piece to the judge.
My ensemble was a quintet called “Minuet in G”. In class for about 2 weeks prior to Solo and Ensemble, our ensemble would go into a room to practice to get her for a 15 minute time slot. In there we went over the balance of melody versus accompaniment, the DS al fine at the end, and the sections we thought were the hardest.
When we walked into the classroom that the judge was occupying, we sat down at our chairs and fingered through our piece until the judge was ready for us to begin. When she looked up at us from the last review she was writing, Leah (my friend the clarinet player?), counted us off and we began.
It went really well. We played all of the notes and rhythms correctly, and the judge said we played with an excellent tone. The only critique she had for us was that we needed “instaneous acceleration of air”, which I think means that we needed to start and stop the notes together.
When we went back to the cafeteria to wait for our results, we sat down and waited anxiously for our score. I felt very confident in our ensembles playing, so I didn’t worry. Instead, I practiced for my solo, which I had yet to perform.
When the results finally came in, we all ran up so we could get what we had all been waiting for. We got an Excellent!
I only had one thing left to do now: my solo.
Oh, the long hours I spent practicing that one piece. I chose an eighth or ninth grade piece called “The March to the River Weser” to play for my solo, and it was probably the most challenging pieces I have ever played. I drilled the arpeggios at the end, the trills from #C to D, and the double tonguing in measure 45 for months. Every detail I tried to come as close to perfect as I could, even though I knew I couldn’t possibly get to it all. I knew in the end that it would all be worth it.
And it was. When I entered the door I felt very prepared. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and started to play.
I breezed through the first page, only pausing for about a second at the trill. When I got to the second page, I began to run out of breath. My ending was a little rushed because of that, but it all turned out alright.
The judge seemed to like my performance. She said that I had a good tone quality and a natural vibrato. She said it was also stunning that I was a 7th grader. In the end, I felt very proud of myself.
I went back into the cafeteria to join my friends: Leah, Noelle, and Teà. We all waited together again for our scores.
Finally, the scores were posted and we rushed over to see them. All my friends had gotten Excellents, and when I looked over at my result, I saw that I had gotten one too!
Solo and Ensemble is a lot of hard work, but in the end it’s all worth it, and you end up having fun too.