Three KoMets make All-State band or choir
Each year about 500 high school sophomores and juniors apply to make it into the following year’s All-State band, mixed choir or orchestra, but only about 140 are accepted. Despite those odds, Kasson-Mantorville High School will be well represented next year as Ethan Barnum (clarinet) and Sayer Flynn (flute) made the All-State band while Olivia Smith made the All-State mixed choir.
As if getting three musicians into the All-State band, mixed choir or orchestra wasn’t impressive enough, what’s even more impressive is two of them, Barnum and Flynn, are sophomores. Kasson-Mantorville Director of Bands Anthony Boldt explained that it’s more difficult for sophomores to earn All-State honors because juniors have had another year of playing, so, “To get selected as a sophomore is a pretty big deal.”
Because it’s harder for sophomores to make the team, Barnum was surprised when he learned he’d made the All-State band.
“My reaction when I learned I got in was just pure shock. I had auditioned this year with the goal of giving my best shot, and getting the feel for the audition process so I could hopefully make it in next year. I didn't really think I would make it in this year,” he said. “I just sat there for a few minutes, and then finally went out to show my parents the message, and everyone was ecstatic.”
Smith, a junior, was also surprised when she learned she’d made the mixed choir.
“When Mr. Faller (K-M choir teacher) said that I made it I was completely shocked and I was so happy I felt like crying,” she said. “I felt satisfied that all of my hard work paid off.”
In addition to seeing the fruits of her labor, she said getting selected for the All-State mixed choir is a huge honor.
“This is probably the biggest accomplishment of my life,” Smith said. “Music is so important to me, and I’ve given up a lot of things to pursue it. I used to have a lot of doubts about quitting soccer and even hockey, which I had been playing since I was very young. I always wondered if I made the right choice, but now I know that I made the right choice for me.”
This honor also validates the years of practice that Barnum has invested into learning and heightening his skill with the clarinet.
“To me, this honor is a culmination of the past six or so years of work in the music program. When I started as a fifth grader, I had no idea this would become such a big part of my life, but it has become probably the one activity that I am most dedicated to,” he said.
That dedication to music was critical, as he had to spend a lot of time practicing to prepare for his audition for All-State band.
“I started practicing as soon as the materials were released, so back in December or January I think. I started out running all of the audition materials once as a warm up for practicing my solo, because solo and ensemble (S and E) contest comes before auditions are due. After S and E was done, I spent most of my time working on audition materials, practicing nightly for half an hour to an hour each time, sometimes longer if I was working on a specific section that needed extra time,” Barnum said.
On the other hand, Smith knew how much preparation it would take since she had auditioned for All-State last year.
Another way that previous experience helped her is she already knew the major scale and Alma Del Core.
However, despite those advantages, she knew she had to prepare for her audition throughout the school year.
“I met with Mr. Faller early in the school year to prepare for Solo and Ensemble, which is in January. I tried to practice as much as possible, being in Shrek the Musical and hockey limited the amount of time I had, but luckily I had plenty of time before solo ensemble and All-State auditions so I didn’t stress about getting in practice time. I loved to stay after school to stay in the music department to practice, this way if I needed help with the pronunciations Mr. Faller wasn’t far away,” Smith said.
K-M Director of Bands Anthony Boldt said Barnum, Smith and Flynn’s work ethic is what makes them worthy selections for All-State band or mixed choir.
“The amount that they both practice is pretty outstanding,” he said. “They’re really committed to being great musicians.”
He mentioned that the highlight of being an All-State selection is a three to four day camp where all the All-State selections come together and spend six to eight hours a day rehearsing for a group concert at the end of the camp.
That camp is usually held in the summer, but due to COVID-19 he’s hoping the camp and concert can be held at the end of February.
Regardless of when it’s held, one reason Boldt hopes these three students have that experience is because, “It’s a really good precursor to college band so it prepares them for that experience.”
However, he said the aspect of the All-State camp that the students will enjoy the most is meeting and playing their instrument or singing with their peers.
“The really big takeaway for them is the experience of getting to play with the best musicians in the state,” he said.
Smith said she’s looking forward that meeting new people and jumping into something she’s never done before.
“I love trying new things so this is right up my alley. I’m also excited to have this opportunity because it’s a huge step in my music career,” she said
In addition to strengthening his music skills, Barnum said the All-State camp will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“My older friends who have already gone have said that it is an amazing experience where you meet tons of like-minded people and make awesome music together,” he said. “[I’m looking forward to] having a blast with some of the best student musicians in the state and making memories and connections that will last a lifetime.”