Mar 18, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff WriterRiverton Middle School on Saturday was filled with the sound of music, at times in perfect harmony, at others in disarray.
The unharmonious sounds stemmed from the gym where nearly 150 middle school students from Riverton, Lander and Rock Springs practiced with their instruments and voices while waiting to perform.
The students were preparing for performances in their 2012 district solo and ensemble festival.
In three separate rooms, judges listened to performances. RMS band instructor Jason Bennett said the students were judged on different areas of performance.
"They judge the kids on a scale of one to five," Bennett said, noting that most get the higher rating of I or II.
In one room, Cody judge Wade French instructed a pair of boys to begin their French horn duet.
The room was completely silent. Both musicians were 12-year-old, seventh-grade RMS students. In the audience, parents and other musicians sat almost motionless while the duet began. One father had his phone out and was recording the performance.
At the end, the audience gave a light applause and then returned to silence while French finished his notes.
He then rose from his seat at the back of the room and approached the pair. French gave them tips on different parts of the piece and asked them to replay a couple sections.
"Guys, that was a really clean performance," French told them.
Back in the practice room, Rylan Peranteaux and Tayte Thomas felt pretty good about their performance.
"We made it through it," Peranteaux said.
"It was OK," Thomas added. "It could have been better."
Both have been playing the horn for a couple of years, and to prepare for Saturday's performance they practiced together two or three times a week for an hour.
Peranteaux and Thomas are good friends, and they plan to play together again in the future.
Other instruments played at the festival were clarinets, saxophones, various percussion instruments, trumpets, euphoniums, bassoons and oboes.
A little later that morning, RMS eighth-grader Nicole Dela Cruz performed a flute solo in front of an audience and judge Jerid Washburn of Green River.
While she played her eyes were fixed on the sheet music.
When Washburn gave her his critique, he told her she chose a tough solo.
"I was (nervous)," Dela Cruz said afterwards. "Then again, after playing a few notes you get used to it. ... You play from the bottom of your heart."
Dela Cruz has been playing the flute since the middle of sixth grade, not long after she moved to Wyoming from the Philippines.
Flute to tuba
Fourteen-year-old Sage Sutton of Lander meandered the floor of the practice room carrying her tuba.
"Actually, I started this year," she said of playing the instrument. "I used to play the flute."
Sutton doesn't miss the flute too much because she likes the deep sounds that come out of the tuba.
Between making duck sounds at his friends in the practice room, Lander seventh-grader Josh Trembly practiced for his euphonium solo.
"I thought it sounded cool, I guess," he said of why he picked the brass instrument.
RMS sixth-grader Talyn O'Neil was pleased with the way her clarinet duet went with classmate Delaney Dronek, saying it was "good -- better than we usually do in practice."
The friends said they've been practicing together almost daily to prepare.
They both plan on playing with each other again.
Director fills in
Bennett spent most the day running around the school helping out where needed. At one point he even filled in for a missing girl in a clarinet trio, playing on his trumpet.
"I'm Ashley," he joked, sparking laughs from the audience. "We're all sixth-graders at Riverton Middle School."
The festival lasted the majority of the day, with final performances wrapping up around 3:30 p.m.
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