Four Geneva High School students recently earned the right to toot their own horns.
They’ve just been selected to represent their school at the prestigious Illinois Music Educators Association All-State Festival, the group’s highest honor for high school musicians. The students will travel to Peoria for the festival, which will take place Wednesday, Jan. 22, through Saturday, Jan. 25. At the event, they will join other gifted young musicians from across the state to perform together in concert.
Brandon Evert and Kevin Farley, both seniors and trumpet players, will play in the band group; junior Sophia Spiegel, cellist, will perform in the orchestra division; and senior Alex Howe will sing in the choir as a tenor.
“I was in normal All-State last year, but when I made honors All-State this year I wasn’t expecting it, and I was shocked beyond belief,” said Howe, who started out in his sixth-grade middle school choir and has been progressing ever since.
Spiegel was smaller than her instrument when she started playing at age 5.
“I honestly chose the cello because I got to sit down to play it,” she laughed.
All those years of commitment and hours of practice have really paid off – “Making All-State is a wonderful surprise and quite an honor,” Spiegel said.
Evert, Farley, Spiegel and Howe also were part of the group of 27 Geneva High School students chosen to represent Geneva at the ILMEA District IX jazz, band, choir and orchestra festivals in November.
Following a rigorous audition process involving hundreds of students within the district, the Geneva students performed in the ILMEA Jazz Festival at Naperville Central High School, and they played at the Band, Choir and Orchestra Festival hosted by Aurora East High School.
Now in his 20th year as Geneva High School band director, Patrick Frederick is proud of the personal dedication and individual achievement shown by his student musicians during the festivals.
“With the challenging music they need to prepare, kids who do this can’t help but get better, and they bring that back to the program,” Frederick said.
Farley first picked up a trumpet in fifth grade. He stuck with it through the years, and through performing with his school band and the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, discovered the joy of playing for an audience.
“You know that adrenalin rush that you get when you’re on stage? That’s what really made me want to keep playing,” he said.
His fellow trumpet player, Evert, also plays guitar, sings and performs in everything from jazz, classical and acoustic ensembles to rock bands. He may study either medicine or dentistry in college, but will likely minor in music, he said.
“I know it can get boring practicing by yourself, but the more you get out there and share your music with other people, the more fun it becomes,” he said.
More about the festivals
Hundreds of music students from area high schools participated in a challenging audition process in early October to determine who would represent their school at the Illinois Music Educators Association District IX jazz, band, choir and orchestra festivals in November.
Of the 55 Geneva High School students who auditioned, 27 were selected to participate in the district festivals.
The students were Riley Carter, Alec Fenne and Nick Mutchler for Jazz Band; Brandon Evert, Kevin Farley, Alec Fenne, Brad Geneser, Jakob Grootens, Madeline Moller, Charles Stuedemann and Ryan Schneider, who played songs such as “Gum-Suckers March,” “ American Overture” and ”Fugue on Yankee Doodle” for Band; Alyssa Hensley, Kevin Schneider and Sophia Spiegel for Orchestra; and Melanie Burkhardt, Natalie Carberry, Molly Carberry, Alex Howe, Sabrina Jaffer, Helen Johnson, Jacob Kochniarczyk, Rian Kormos, Austin Lewis, Joey McCall, Anika Nims, Will Palumbo, Chris Rich and Zane Shaw for Choir.
The musicians spent a day with students from other high schools and worked with noteworthy guest conductors, eventually presenting an afternoon concert for the public.
According to Geneva High School Band Director Patrick Frederick, the ILMEA music festivals offer his students a chance to enrich themselves beyond the regular band curriculum.
“The audition process is very competitive as the kids go from room to room to perform scales, play a fast etude, a slow etude, and there’s also a sight reading room where they play a piece of music they’ve never seen before,” he said.
Frederick hopes his graduating seniors will keep the musical corner of their lives going as they look forward to college.
“It’s hard for me to imagine some of these kids not playing past high school because it’s obviously such a big part of who they are,” he said.