Feb 17, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterA group of Riverton High School students traveled to Laramie in January to participate in Wyoming's All State music programs.
For many, it was their first time at the annual gathering of the state's best high school musicians. But others have been in the All State band, orchestra or choir throughout their entire high school career.
Kathryn Thayer is one of the four-year students, having played her oboe in the All State Orchestra since 2011. RHS band director Aric Hageman said Thayer sat "first chair" all four years, meaning she was the best oboe player in the group. She also plays saxophone in the RHS jazz band, and she has picked up the English horn --an instrument not typically taught in public schools.
"She's taken it upon herself," Hageman said. "She's renting it from a music store."
The senior plans to major in music education and oboe performance, likely at the University of Wyoming. But she said All State is a great experience for any student with an interest in music.
"You meet new people and play with a lot of musicians (who) have put a lot of effort into their instrument," she said. "It's a lot of fun playing with an upper level ensemble like that."
Hageman said the All State groups perform more difficult music than high school students may be accustomed to. Guest conductors also lend an air of professionalism to the event: Hageman said the All State band, choir and orchestra groups work with their conductors throughout the two-day program, then put on a concert the second evening.
On the first night, a select group from an area high school usually performs a concert, and a professional or college ensemble may play on the second evening as well. A student banquet also takes place on the second night.
"It's two long, long days," he said.
Much of the time is spent rehearsing, but Thayer said the All State group also has fun.
"There's swimming, dances, movies, all sorts of stuff," she said. "It's always a different experience."
Players must audition to make it to All State. At RHS, Hageman said, all of his students learn the audition material, but the actual tryout is optional.
"We'll read through (the songs) once a week," he said. "Then they have to prepare by themselves."
He is willing to coach his students, but Hageman said he doesn't believe in "spoon feeding" the music to them.
"If they want it, they'll earn it," he said. "I think they get more out of it that way."
Thayer said the encouragement from Hageman is part of the reason RHS sends about 20 students each year to perform with the All State band.
"It's nice to know our director has faith in us and wants us to be there," she said. "But it's also just the amount of kids that enjoy doing music and want to go have that experience."
Fewer RHS choir students tend to participate in All State. In fact, only one or two went this year.
"We've had more in the past," Hageman said. "That just happened to be this year's selection."
He has seen students get picked for All State for three years in a row, then fail to make it as seniors.
"It could be a hiccup in the audition room, or someone came up and was better," he said.
RHS doesn't have a program that teaches stringed instruments --Hageman said only five schools in Wyoming do --so he usually sends his best band students, like Thayer, to participate in the All State Orchestra.
"The wind section from the orchestra is pulled from the band numbers," he said. "Typically those are our top woodwind and brass players."
Thayer said she has enjoyed the opportunity to play with an
orchestra during All State sessions each year.
"It's a little different," she said.
In a band setting, for example, several people often play the same part. In the orchestra, however, Thayer is one of two people playing the oboe, and the second person follows a separate score.
"So when I play it's always a soloistic part," she said. "It makes me a little nervous sometimes, but I always enjoy being able to go and play something that's different and be able to play it well."
Her abilities don't all come naturally: Thayer said she spends a lot of time practicing, especially before All State auditions. She said she knows she is competing with every other oboe player in Wyoming.
"But other than that I'm pretty confident in my abilities," she said.
Thayer took up the oboe in sixth grade, and she has played with the Central Wyoming College band in addition to her work at RHS. But even with her experience locally she said she never assumed she would get into All State.
"We just practice the music and hope and pray for a couple of weeks that we make it in," she said. "It's a really good challenge for all of us."
RHS senior Zachary Miller was the only other four-year student from Riverton in All State this year; he played trumpet for the All State Orchestra. Hageman said Miller also won a scholarship for outstanding audition and essay.
RHS student Amanda Johnston also was in the orchestra for her first year playing the bassoon. Other county students in the orchestra included Andrew Gramlich from Lander Valley High School, who has been at All State four years and played the French horn in the orchestra this year. Emily Schimelpfenig from LVHS went for her third year playing violin 2 in the All State Orchestra.
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