Band students play well, move on to state

Fifteen Vashon High School band members will head to the state solo and ensemble competition April 29 and 30 at Central Washington University.

The students earned the right to attend by placing first in their divisions at the recent district competition — the Commencement Bay Region Solo and Ensemble Contest — on Feb. 12 in Tacoma.

More than 30 students from Vashon participated in the event, said VHS band director Ken Quehrn, including seven sixth-graders, the highest number of students that age he has had participate during his three years on the Island.

“It’s really exciting,” he said.

State contenders include Brooks Brenner on bass clarinet, Aidan Morrison on guitar and 13 members of the school’s percussion ensemble, two of whom are also competing as individuals. Dylan Greene, one of those students, won the state competition last year in the multi-percussion category, and this year he is competing on “mallets,” or the xylophone and marimba. Peyton Levin of the ensemble will also compete individually and will perform in the multi-percussion category.

The ensemble was created the first year Quehrn taught on Vashon, he said, and that year they were the first runners up at the district competition. Last year, they went to state, and this year, he said, they hope to place there.

Competition will be stiff, he noted.

“The level goes up a whole lot higher,” he said.

The recent ensemble competition included students from Vashon, Tacoma, Fife, Gig Harbor and surrounding areas. At state, though, students will compete against the top students from Washington’s 23 band districts, and ensembles will be working to impress three judges, not just one.

While Quehrn is pleased with number of students advancing, he stressed that the recent contest and the state competition are excellent learning opportunities for students because they are judged by musicians who are experts in the individual instruments.

All the Vashon students who participated at the district level scored very well, Quehrn noted. Judges score on a scale from one to five, and every Vashon student who performed earned a one or two, “superior” or “excellent” marks.

“I tell students if you’re not taking private lessons and you get a two, you should be ecstatic,” Quehrn said.

One of the reasons for the students’ success, he said, was that former Vashon band director Dave Shepherd volunteered his expertise and worked with the students during school hours twice a week for three weeks before the competition, providing individual instruction.

Islanders will have a chance to hear the district performers, including those going on to state, in a community concert slated for the second week of April.

Members of the percussion ensemble are Petey Byrne, Kellan Faker-Boyle, Tate Gill, Dylan Greene, Andy Hennessey, Geno Kuhns, Peyton Levin, Tanner Montague, Helen Pendergast, Ian Peterson, Nathaniel Petram, Sam Veatch and Alex Wall.

State alternates are Tate Gill on timpani, Erica Walker on oboe and a small percussion ensemble made up of Dylan Greene, Kellan Faker-Boyle and Sam Veatch.

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