Five Rainier Jr./Sr. High School students, Kadence Stout, Hunter Gutenberger, Robert duPlessis, Jr., Austin Vaughn and Kat Placido, have been selected for various all-state ensembles, honor music groups run by the Oregon Music Education Association (OMEA).

Middle school students Stout and Gutenberger, both in eighth grade, will rehearse and perform in Eugene, Oregon from Thursday, Jan. 16 through Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. Stout, accepted into the all-state middle school treble choir, will perform at The First United Methodist Church in Eugene. Gutenberger, accepted into the all-state middle school band for clarinet, will perform at the First Baptist Church in Eugene.

High school students duPlessis, Jr., 12th grade, Vaughn, 12th grade and Placido, ninth grade, will perform with the all-state symphonic band on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020 at the First Baptist Church in Eugene. Vaughn was accepted for trombone, duPlessis for tenor sax and Placido for oboe. Rehearsals start on Friday, Jan. 17 and will run through the weekend until the Sunday performance. Placido has also been accepted into the district high school honor band for OMEA District 3, Northwestern Oregon.

“I feel an immense sense of pride in these students that have taken on this challenge to learn the music all outside and on their own time,” Madison Keezer-Birmingham, Director of Bands and Choirs at RJSHS said.

To get accepted, students had to audition in an intensive process. Students were given an audition sheet in September with three music excerpts, a chromatic scale and two different etudes, and had roughly a month to practice them. They recorded their audition and sent it to OMEA. Students are judged on a variety of factors, like tone quality, timing, tuning and accuracy, according to Keezer-Birmingham. Those who were accepted were notified by email last week.

Keezer-Birmingham said nearly 1,000 students audition for a band that will be capped at around 150.

“Generally, there’s a lot more entries than there are slots available,” Keezer-Birmingham said.

One of the high school students, Placido, has been looking forward to this experience for a while. Her older brother, now a music major, was very involved in music while growing up, and was able to show Placido the ropes.

“He prepared me for auditioning, so I had a little bit of a good look at everything before I got into it,” Placido said.

It can take students a few tries to get into these selective groups. That’s what happened with Vaughn, who tried out for the all-state choir the first time his sophomore year, didn’t make it, but then was accepted last year for trombone into the All-Northwest honor band, a biennial music conference for all six states in the Northwest that is especially selective, run by the National Association for Music Education.

“That was a really, really awesome experience,” Vaughn said. “So I’m very excited to go to this year too.”

Participating in these groups means meeting students from all over Oregon, staying in a hotel with them and performing together in a

different, more professional setting than a school setting. For some, this experience is about camaraderie. For others, it is yet another step on a lifelong musical journey.

That’s the story for duPlessis, who wants to pursue music as a career, hopefully as a music educator, like his teacher Keezer-Birmingham.

“My plan after high school is to become a music teacher and teach around the Oregon area,” duPlessis said. “I will also try to be playing in a band of some sort, jazz, symphonic, or singing. Either way, I will stay involved in music as much as possible.”

The all-state band can be a capstone experience for some, and a launching pad for additional music opportunities for others. Placido, for example, said she wants to get as much honor band music experience as possible in the hopes of joining the Oregon Ambassadors of Music program, sponsored by the University of Oregon, a selective program where student musicians tour and perform in several countries in Europe over the course of two weeks.

Middle school students Gutenberger and Stout are also looking forward to the experience.

Stout, who was already a member of the district middle school honor band last year, said Keezer-Birmingham approached him sometime last year to tell him about the all-state band. Gutenberger decided to try out, and was accepted.

“Really, I’m just looking forward to meeting the band and getting to know a few more kids,” Gutenberger said. Gutenberger plays the clarinet now and said he will continue music in high school and is thinking about taking up another instrument.

Stout, who joined the school choir last school year, said she wants to pursue singing as a career, which inspired her to join all-state treble choir.

“I thought, ‘Hey, I heard it’s really hard to get into all-state, and if I’m accepted then, great experience, and then it’s one step closer to my dream,’” Stout said.

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