Baldwin High School has record four students selected for state honor band
Brian Cooper said one of things that made the experience of playing clarinet in the Kansas Music Educators Association’s state honor band special was the quality of the other band members.
“It was nice to get to play with the best of the best,” the Baldwin High School senior said. “It’s a different experience.”
But as he looked at who was filling other chairs in the honor band Feb. 23 in Wichita, the Baldwin High School senior saw familiar faces. Also selected to the band from Baldwin were Austin Kraus on trombone — a fellow senior who like Cooper was making his third appearance in the band — junior Cassidy Markley on oboe and sophomore Kymbr Simmons on contra clarinet.
That’s the most Baldwin students ever to be selected to the state honor band, according to Cooper’s father, BHS band director Will Cooper.
“We’re lucky to get one,” the band director said. “It’s pretty special to have two three-year members.”
Selection to the state 1A to 4A band is a multi-step process that requires students to audition and be selected to the district band, Will Cooper said. They then go through auditions again before band directors from other schools in January before their selection to the state band.
Baldwin had six students in the district band, five of whom auditioned for the state honor band.
“The auditions were kind of nerve-wracking, but the actual performing wasn’t nerve-wracking at all,” said first-time honor band member Simmons.
Helping ease her nerves was the knowledge that she was the only student auditioning with the contra clarinet.
“I just kind of like the lower sound,” she said. “And it’s big. It’s bigger than me.”
Markley, another first-year honor band member, said she learned to play with other instruments as the only oboe player in the band.
As third-year members of the band, Cooper and Kraus got to catch up with old friends from around the state in the all-star band. But Kraus said the experience was fresh because they had the opportunity to learn the wide range of waltzes, marches and a lullaby performed at the 90-minute concert.
Conducting the state honor band this year was University of Texas professor emeritus Paula Crider, who shared with the students novel methods to help them relax and keep their focus during the long four- to five-hour rehearsals.
“She taught us to take power naps and tai chi,” Cooper said.
Still awaiting the students this year are solo and ensemble regional and state competitions and two more school concerts, Kraus said. That won’t be the end of the two seniors’ musical careers. Kraus, who will attend Evansville University to study mechanical engineering, and Cooper, who plans to attend either Kansas University or Kansas State University, said they want to be in their college bands.
BHS band director Cooper said his program would continue to benefit from the experience the two seniors and underclassmen gained in the honor band.
“They learn a lot in the process,” he said. “Hopefully, it encourages other kids to try it. “