10 Minstrels Make County Honor Band

Fiona Deane-Grundman, Staff Writer

Following auditions last week, 10 Campolindo students earned positions in the 2015 Contra Costa Honor Band.

Daniel Warner, Joseph Cherayil, Kyle Lindquist, Hunter Wheeler, Kevin Deng, Nikhil Suri, Erica Wilson, Jacob Brickman, Eli Kirmayer, and Daniel Flaherty all made the cut.

“This is a band that you can audition into if you play a band instrument or a percussion if you’re a student in a Contra Costa County high school. Then, if you secure a position in the band, then you work with a top level conductor and with students from all over the county, from different schools. You come together for two and a half days of intense rehearsal: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, then a concert,” said instrumental music director Johnny Johnson.

The program culminates in a final performance weekend. “The way it’s structured now is that there’s a host district that manages all the details around the rehearsal experience and concert, providing a site for the concert to happen in and the rehearsals to happen in,” said Johnson. This year San Ramon Valley High School is hosting the program. The conductor is “one of the world’s foremost authorities and conductors of the wind band, Allan McMurray, Professor Emeritus from the University of Colorado at Boulder,” according to the Acalanes Instrumental Music website.

According to Johnson, music directors county wide helped prepare their students for the audition process. “All of the directors submit a list which we register the students to go. It’s a live audition so we’re only peripherally involved. We’re not involved in the audition to make sure everything’s on the up and up and there’s no favoritism involved. [The judges are] people from the community but the adjudicators are not allowed to be teachers in the district,” he explained.

Sophomore Erica Wilson, who will be participating in the band for the first time, said, “I auditioned last year and I didn’t make it.”

According to Wilson, the audition was to highlight the applicant’s skill and showcase their ease at performing. “There are four scales and you have to get a prepared piece that you’re comfortable performing and then there’s a sight reading. I played Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninoff,” she explained. “I thought it went really badly,” she added. Nevertheless, she will be joining Suri as one of five French horn players in the program. 10 French horn players auditioned.

Johnson also supported the students at the audition.”It was comforting for [Johnson] to be there as a volunteer,” said Wilson.

According to Suri, who is a veteran of the band, “Auditions are kind of always stressful because you have to play your best and there’s so much preparation that goes into it and you don’t want to mess it up in front of the guy who you’re auditioning for, so I just go in and try to do my best and not really worry about the result.”

Johnson helped him manage the schedule. “[He was] helping me prepare because he reminded me about all the dates and preparation that I had to go through,” Suri said. However, the major responsibility fell on the musician. “I was the one who had to find the piece to play, who had to practice,” added Suri.

“The students are theoretically the most dedicated and top level students that are available so they put this major concert together in a very short amount of time and it’s a really magical experience,” Johnson explained.

The program is a transformative experience for young musicians. Students form bonds with other dedicated artists. “You get to know people who are interested in music throughout the whole county and you develop relationships with them,” explained Wilson. “It’s a bunch of good musicians who’ve come together from all over the county. We all want to make music,” he said. He added that “it’s all people who really want to be there and really want to put on a good concert and really care about music.”

“It’s a higher level experience because you’re getting the most dedicated students to what we do and they kind of commit to this time that’s outside of school so it happens quickly but its kind of like the only thing that they’re doing for a few days. So they’re really focused on this thing for just a couple days,” Johnson explained.

The concert is scheduled for January. Band members prepare with an intense four days of rehearsal. “We all go there for several hours and work together and play and then we have a concert that day,” Wilson explained. “It’s just a huge time commitment for that one weekend,” she added.

Suri said, “The concert is always really good; we always play really good music.”

The Honor Band is an important opportunity for ambitious music students. “It’s a lot more intensive, there are only a few rehearsals so they’re a lot longer and a lot more focused,” said Suri. He said that it complements his Campolindo music training.

“I think it’s always good to get more concert opportunities and to get more experience because whenever you go through one of these things you become a better musician,” Suri explained.