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Young musicians earn spots in honor bands

A number of musicians at Vashon High School were recently selected to participate in several honor bands, joining the most talented young musicians from across the Northwest to practice their skills under some of the best composers and conductors in the country.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, seven VHS band members travelled to Seattle to participate in the Western International Band Clinic (WIBC), a four-day event that concluded with a concert on Monday, Nov. 22.

The students — sophomore Brooks Benner, senior Kellan Faker-Boyle, senior Kendle Hargrove, sophomore Jonathan Kim, sophomore Amanda Ohmert, sophomore Paal Nielssen and junior Helen Pendergast — auditioned for the clinic in October. They competed with over 8,000 high schoolers from six states to make it into one of four 165-member bands at the clinic.

Faker-Boyle, a percussionist at VHS, said he loved playing with such a large group of committed musicians at WIBC.

“The kids who go there really care about their instrument and what they play,” he said. “I learned what a tight, well-sounding band sounds like.”

The band students had the opportunity to work with six world-renowned conductors at the clinic, some of whom directed compositions they had written themselves.

“You are playing all day, seven to eight hours a day,” Faker-Boyle said. “You surprisingly don’t get that tired of it. … You really get a taste of what it would be like to do it for a living.”

Faker-Boyle, who plans to study music composition in college, said having such a meaningful musical experience confirmed his interest in a career in music.

“It reassured me that that’s definitely what I want to do,” he said.

Additional VHS students auditioned and were selected for similar but smaller and highly selective honor bands that will be held in the coming months. Hargrove and freshman Kieran Kim-Murphy were selected to participate in Pacific Lutheran University’s Northwest High School Honor Band in February, and Benner and junior Dylan Basurto were selected for Washington’s All-State Band.

Dylan Greene, a senior percussionist, was selected to play in the All-Northwest Orchestra, considered the highest honor for a student musician in Washington.

It will mark the second time Greene has been a part of the group, a 220-member ensemble of the top band and orchestra students from Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

Though the All-Northwest conference, held in Bellevue, involves three days of demanding rehearsals in preparation for the final concert, Greene said that it was a musically inspiring experience.

“I would say it’s pretty life altering,” he said.

Greene, who also placed first in his category at the state solo contest last year, said he didn’t attend WIBC this year because he has been busy applying to and auditioning for music schools across the country. He hopes to one day teach or compose music himself.

Ken Querhn, the band director at VHS, said he was thrilled to see so many of his students selected for prestigious groups this year. He said the experience of playing or performing with large ensembles under top-class instruction is invaluable for the young musicians.

“It gives me the chance to give my best players an opportunity to go the extra mile that they don’t get in the band program. … This gets the kids off the Island and into the real world of music, where they can really see how they stack up against other people,” he said.

Querhn added that sending the band’s best players to selective groups also helps the band as a whole improve.

“They learn a lot with these kinds of things. … They bring that experience back to the band program,” he said.

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