It’s the end of Concert Band class and students are getting ready to leave. For a small high school of 155 students the class is pretty popular; about 50 are in it.
Matt Lenhard is the long-time Petersburg music teacher. He brings students to the state music festival every year but he says this year was exceptional.
“When we get five kids, which has happened about three times, you know, I’m pretty happy when that happens,” Lenhard said. “Like, ‘Wow’ our small school can contribute five musicians to the All-State Band. So when eight happened, I was really pleased.”
The eight students included two in band and six in choir. They were accepted into the state music festival through auditions that are recorded by Lenhard and then reviewed by judges.
The auditions are strictly merit based so more students from large urban schools are accepted.
“It’s a little tougher for kids from rural schools to make it into the All-State band,” Lenhard said. “It’s just the audition is really tough and it takes a lot of time and commitment to practice it. Kids in rural schools, it’s not that they can’t do the audition but they also do other things.”
Junior Brandon Ware is the first tuba player from Petersburg to make the All-State Band. Lenhard is pretty sure he’s the first tuba player from a Southeast rural school to ever make it. It’s a particularly hard instrument to play and it’s expensive; “$4,000 at the very least”, Lenhard said.
Ware uses a tuba that was donated to the school by the Haltiner family. Ware has been playing the instrument since the 7th grade. It was his first time going to State.
“I really liked the music we played because it was really challenging yet I felt like it was achievable and not something you play every day.”
Senior Nathanial Lenhard played along with Ware in the All-State Band as a trombone player. He remembers the guest band director well.
“He was very, very strict,” Nathaniel Lenhard said. “Before he said anything to us he strode into the room, wrote on the white board behind us, ‘when casual enters the room, art exits’. That was slightly frightening.”
The guest director was Kirt Saville, the Director of the School of Music at Brigham Young University.
“He cared most about the tone and volume of the notes we were playing,” Nathaniel Lenhard said. “So if you’re just playing a note, you don’t care about how it sounds or if you’re in tune with other people or how loud you are then he won’t like it.”
To get that perfect sound, the director had the students watch their breathing.
“We did a lot of breathing exercises to start off rehearsals,” Ware said. “We’d put our hands right up to our face and we’d have to make a noise when we’re breathing in like this, ‘Whoosh’ and then we’d have to blow on our hands and kind of have to go out with our hands as we blew. We did that every day.”
It was Jasmine Ieremia’s first time at All-State. The junior sang Alto II in the treble choir. She says she really liked it because she was able to make music for three days straight, something she had never experienced before.
“I thought it was cool to be taught at a state level with a state level choir,” Ieremia said. “So you’re not like working on the pitches or the rhythms or the words. You’re working on your tone, your dynamics, how you can make this the best possible performance you can possibly have with all singers that actually like care and are there because they’re good enough to be at State.”
Freshman Brooklyn Dormer was among the youngest at State. She sang in the Treble Choir as a Soprano II.
“It was great to hear our part,” Dormer said. “We had put so much work into every little detail and just to see it come together. And to also to listen to the orchestra, the band, and the mixed choir, they all sounded just so cool.”
Matt Lenhard himself went to All-State as a high school trombone player in Idaho.
“I remember lots of it,” Matt Lenhard said, “and I think these guys are accumulating wonderful musical experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives too. It’s neat to see.”
Senior Ben Higgins sang Tenor I in the Mixed Choir and was a candidate for first chair. Other students who went to State were Sophomore Eva Lenhard who sang Alto II in the Mixed Choir, Junior Julia Murph who sang Alto I in the Mixed Choir, and Senior Kelsa Sperl who sang Alto II in the Mixed Choir.
Lenhard says there were a few hard working students this year who didn’t make it to State but eight is still a strong number.