Sweet music to their ears.
Two Ennis High School students made the 4A All-State Band, playing for a crowd of thousands at the Lila Cockrell Theatre at Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center for the Texas Music Education Conference held in San Antonio last weekend.
The first order of the event was to audition at the convention center in try-outs for chairs.
Ennis High School junior Jennifer Lane made coveted first chair bassoon. Rehearsals began Thursday under director James S. Keene. A strict schedule allowed six hours a day for rehearsal, and it could be grueling as the conductor demanded the students’ best.
The strict expectation paid off, she recalled.
“I played my solo correctly. The conductor said I was the hero of the band, and that made me feel better,” she said with a grin. “It was worth it.”
Her performance at state may have been an entrée of sorts for Lane, who hopes to attend Baylor University after she graduates from Ennis High School.
Eventually, she would like to be a professional bassoonist in an orchestra, and she’d like to teach. To that end, she plans to get a B.A. in music education and an M.A. in music performance “so I can do a little of both,” she said.
So what’s great about the bassoon, widely known to be one of the toughest instruments in the band to play – along with the oboe?
“I love that it’s a low, melodic instrument, that it sort of sings when you play. It’s very calming,” she said.
“And I like that it’s a challenge – that it’s not easy to play.”
Lane gives credits to her instructors over the years for their encouragement. Ennis High School band director Gary Goodwin was proud of his players for making all-state.
“He talks about it and encourages us,” she said.
She credits her junior high school director, David Ingram, for his encouragement all through the process, and the school district itself for nurturing a strong band program.
“Ennis High School has a good band program, I think it’s one of the stronger ones of the towns around us,” she said.
Lane said she’s thinking about competing among students from 5A schools in next year’s contest.
“My director said since I’d gotten first chair in 4A might as well go the harder route . That will be much more challenging – I’m still deciding, because it’s intimidating,” she said.
She is the daughter of Bill and Karen Lane, and is active in numerous school activities, including Key Club and LEADD. She’s in the youth group at Tabernacle Baptist, and she recently left a job at Braums to focus more on her bassoon.
“I honestly believe if I didn’t quit, I wouldn’t have made state,” she said, crediting her dad for helping her make the decision. “I owe a lot to him.”
After making her way up a competitive ladder filled with other talented clarinetists, Ennis High School senior Laura Seale made 5th chair clarinet.
Among her influences she cites her lesson teachers, including Ron Stokes, who taught her when she was younger. “He just kept pushing me and told me I could do it,” she said.
“When I became an advanced player, Jeff Garcia taught me. He pushed me and saw my potential as a clarinet player, and he showed me it’s not just about the rhythm and the note name, it’s about making music of what’s on the page. I consider him my mentor,” she said.
“Ennis High School band director Mr. Goodwin encouraged me to do well and knew I would succeed in music,” she said.
The funnest thing about going to the All-State band?
“Being able to rehearse all day with other talented musicians was really fun, and to be in San Antonio with my friend Jennifer, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” she said.
The daughter of Tracie Junkin and Todd Seale, she plans to major in music education in college. She’s hoping to attend Baylor. “They have an excellent clarinet studio there,” she said.
“I love the clarinet. I love its position in the band, which is mainly melody. I just love the clarinet sound,” she said.
The scoring for All-State Band is done on an Olympic-style system, with five judges and the top and bottom scores tossed out, with the other three scores being averaged.
Dr. Steve Shoop has had both students in his band program at Ennis Junior High School. He praised their achievement by making All-State Band this year.
“Obviously they would be considered, on their instrument, two of the top high school players in the state of Texas,” he said.
“We also have a number of other kids that are up in that level who just didn’t happen to make it this particular time,” Shoop said.
Lane and Seale got their picture taken with All-State Band conductor James Keene, recently retired from the University of Illinois, which has an astonishing band tradition, having had just four conductors since 1905.
“It’s obviously one of the top college band positions in the nation. It was quite an opportunity for these girls to work under him,” said Shoop.
“We’re fortunate to know him personally – he knows the Ennis High School band program, and he was a friend and colleague of Ivan and Judi Goodwin.”
Sam Ventura is Jennifer Lane's grandfather. He was at Saturday’s virtuoso concert, and he said the music produced by the All-State Band was phenomenal.
“You couldn’t believe what was coming out of the instruments, they were so good,” Ventura said, adding that he was impressed by the caliber of musicianship coming out of Ennis ISD schools.
“I didn’t realize it was such a big deal, but I can see what a tremendous program we have here,” he said.
E-mail J.Louise at firstname.lastname@example.org.