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Vashon high schoolers get set to prove their musical mettle at state contest
More than a dozen Vashon High School band members are gearing up to blow horns, beat drums and make all kinds of other music at the Washington State Solo and Ensemble Contest in Ellensburg next week.
But before the group of talented teens heads to central Washington for the prestigious competition, they’ll perform a special concert for a home-town crowd — giving Islanders a sneak preview of some of the music the judges in Ellensburg will be hearing.
The concert, which will take place this Friday night, was organized by the Band of Pirates Supporters, a group that provides fundraising and logistical support to the VHS band.
Cynthia Chee, a member of the group, said she was inspired to work with other parents to put on the concert after attending last year’s state band competition and hearing a VHS musician, Alyssa Sibbers, perform an oboe solo prepared for the competition.
“It was lovely and haunting,” Chee said, adding that she realized at the time that she was one of a very few Vashon residents to hear Sibbers perform a piece that must have taken months of practice.
“This event is an opportunity for Vashon to hear music too fine to be performed only once for the judges and the odd lucky one like me,” Chee said.
Friday night’s concert will also provide a chance for Islanders to savor a year that has been full of accomplishments and excitement for the high school band.
In February, 52 members of the band traveled to Disneyland, where they were invited to march in a parade through the park’s fabled “Main Street, U.S.A,” performing their trademark number, “Hey, Baby,” a showy song that the band not only plays, but sings large portions of as well.
The trip to California also included a chance for the band to attend a master class and participate in an exchange program with a high school band in Watts.
But the biggest measure of the band’s success in the past year has been that so many of its members — almost 20 in all — have qualified to compete on April 23 and 24 at the state contest in Ellensburg.
The contest is an annual event sponsored by the Washington Music Educators Association and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
“This has been a huge year for us,” said Ken Quehrn, who has been band director at VHS since 2008. “I’ve never had this many kids going to state in my 18 years of teaching.”
Two ensembles — The BA Brass Ensemble and the VHS Percussion Ensemble — qualified for the competition.
The brass group consists of Dylan Basurto, Tynan Lazarus, Madeleine Osborne, Ramsey Walker and Eli Hoyt.
The percussion ensemble includes Petey Byrne, Kellan Faker-Boyle, Dylan Greene, Andy Hennessey, Peyton Levin, Emory Mediema-Boyajian, Tanner Montague, Helen Pendergast, Nathaniel Petram, Sam Veatch and Alex Wall.
VHS soloists performing at the competition will be alto-bass clarinetist Brooks Benner, percussionists Dylan Greene and Emory Mediema-Boyajian, guitarist Aidan Morrison and trombonist Ramsey Walker.
Quehrn said all the students were more than deserving of the honor of competing at the state level.
“It couldn’t happen to a better group of kids,” Quehrn said. “What’s so cool from a teacher’s standpoint is that the kids who are going really deserve this — they’ve all worked extremely hard to get there.”
But for senior Eli Hoyt, a tuba player who will be competing at state, being in the band hasn’t been all hard work — there has also been a sense of joy and discovery along the way.
Hoyt explained that being in the band has deepened his appreciation of orchestral and symphonic music, and beyond that, he’s had a lot of fun in the band.
“I’ve always just really enjoyed the ability to get together with a big group of people and make really complicated and beautiful music,” he said.
Soloists and ensemble members from the VHS and McMurray bands will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, April 16, at the Methodist Church. Admission is by donation, with all proceeds benefiting the music programs at both schools.