Solo and Ensemble

”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.

District Band Competition

It was still dark outside when I awoke from an anxious, anticipating sleep. Nervousness racked my thoughts, preventing me from thinking about anything else.
Yesterday I went to my first real band competition.

The District band competition was held at West Ridge, which was one less thing to worry about. But only one. Adrenaline coursed through me like a raging river. When I got there, I unpacked my flute and warmed up.

That might have been the hardest warm up I have ever been asked to do. I was trembling until the moment the flutes were called into our room to perform in front of a panel of judges.

We were each given a letter to be called up by, so we would be anonymous when we played in front of the judges. I was letter F, the sixth one to perform out of the 32 flutes there. I silently watched as each person slowly went up, inching closer and closer to my letter being called.

I must have been numb before I was asked to play, for when they were on flute E, a good friend of mine, did I realize that my fingers were stiff from clutching my flute so hard. Flute E had finished her music, standing up quickly from the playing playing chair and walking away with a unsure look on her face. She gave me a thumbs up as she was traveling back to her seat, and I knew it was time for me to play.

We were asked to play three pieces of music and three scales, all of which I had been preparing for for months in advance.The judges scored us in a series of 2 rounds. The first round, which I was about to play, consisted of the 3 scales and the first etude. The second round was the other 2 etudes.

The judges were behind a screen so they wouldn’t be biased about who they were scoring, but as I fumbled to get my pieces out, I could almost feel their intense stares.I took a deep breath and carefully lifted my flute to my mouth to play.

I shook so much that I didn’t even have to use vibrato to make the notes go between a flat and a sharp sound. I played as strongly as I could, and I tried to recall all the things I was told as I played: Remember your dynamics. Don’t drag when you play softer. Don’t skip over the trills or grace notes. Remember to count your rests.

After what seemed like a day, I had finally made it through round 1 of the competition. I had made a few mistakes, and I was reprehending my self for them as I took my seat to watch all of the other flutes perform.

Some of the flute players made me feel relieved, for I knew that I did better than them. But most of them made my heart pound in my ears, and I knew that I didn’t stand a chance.
After a painstaking 3 hours, we all took a 5 minute break and went back into the room to start round 2.

Round 2 was a blur. I lost track of time worrying and comparing myself to others. I went up again and played what I was told. My heart beat faster and faster with every wrong note I squeaked out. I was in that room for a total of 6 hours, and when they let us go, I was more stressed than I had ever felt before.

It is hard to grade yourself on how you did when you were just focused on playing the right notes. As I walked back to the cafeteria were they would post the scores in an hour, I kept preparing myself for a low score telling me that I would not advance to Regionals.

Nothing is worse than waiting for your scores. I tried to cheer myself up by playing around with my friends and getting something to eat, but it was in vain. I couldn’t stop glancing over at the empty results wall. Every time a person walked into the cafeteria, my heart pounded.

Finally, a woman in a black dress comes in with a sheet of paper. Almost everyone in the room sprints to see their scores.
I try to navigate through the sea of people. I hear both shouts of joy and cries of sadness.

When I get to the board, I immediately look at the bottom, praying that I at least made it onto the list. I see lots of names, but none of them are mine. I slump. But then, I slowly trace my finger to the top of the list.

To my amazement, I see it. Flute F. Ingrid M. Grade 7. I move my finger to the left, revealing my placement. I had gotten second chair out of 32 flutes! I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was going to Regionals!

I raced to tell my friends the news. I was so happy that all my work had payed off. I was so grateful. But even as much as I wanted to stay, it was time to go home.

After lots of hugs and congratulations, I jumped in my friend’s car and drove home.
I will never forget that day. I have learned not to doubt myself so much and to never give up, for hard work will always pay off.

Music: The Language of Millions

The swooning, melodious sound of creative individuals working together or alone to craft something that the whole world will enjoy. Music is the light of this earth, the thing that makes you think deeper, celebrates occasions, cheers you up when you are upset.

The universal thing about music is that no matter where you are from, what your backgrounds are, or what your race is, music is for everyone. Music to me has one big purpose: to bring people together. Whether you’re at a football game with your friends hearing a band play, sitting in your car with your family listening to the radio, or playing in an orchestra blending in with the other instruments, if you listen carefully you will be able to truly understand how hard people work to give you that minute or so of  your favorite song or piece of music.

Music has impacted my life in a huge way. I play flute for my middle school band and it is my favorite part of the day when I pick it up to play. I always knew that I wanted to be a flute player the minute I signed up band in 6th grade. When I came in to try out for what instrument I would play, I went straight to the flute tryouts. When I first saw the judge’s flute, I was inspired. I loved the way it glimmered in the light and played so prettily. When the judge gave me the flute head joint however, I couldn’t make a sound. That was expected, of course, and it didn’t put me down. But when the judge looked at the mark I had made after I played it, she said I could never be a flutist. She said that my upper lip had a ‘teardrop’, which is too much of a curve in the middle of your lip. I was crushed. Throughout the rest of the tryouts I tried playing other various instruments, but I could not get over the flute. In the end, I picked French horn, the only instrument I could make a sound on.

Thank goodness for Mrs. Glover. At the tryouts, she noticed that I was upset about my instrument choice, and she invited me to try out the instruments one more time. I tried both the French horn and the flute again. Mrs. Glover said that I could be a great flute player. I was overjoyed.

Playing the flute has taught me many things: perseverance, gratitude, strength, and courage. Sometimes I look back and wonder how different my life would be if I played French horn.

Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference.