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Strike up the band: Students show musical abilities at Colusa concert
Two days of hard work and long hours paid off for 69 sixth-grade to ninth-grade students from 17 Northern California schools on Saturday, when the California Music Educators Association North Section Junior High School Honor Band performed in Colusa Community Theater.
"This group has tired lips but willing hearts. They have come a long way in just two days," guest conductor Jane Brown said. "I was really proud of the kids. It was an emotionally charged performance. They were musicians when they arrived, but they weren't a band — they really came together. There were moments when I thought a professional musician couldn't have played it any better."
In addition to being the director of music education at Chester High School, Brown has worked with internationally renowned maestros such as Gustav Meier, Mark Gibson, Markand Thakar and Diane Wittry. She's been the conductor for the Reno Pops Orchestra since 2004.
This marked the first time that the event has taken place in Colusa. Music teacher Michael Phenicie and his wife, Yvonne, were the official hosts. Ten instrumentalists from Colusa County schools — among whom were two sets of siblings — made the cut for the honor band after receiving recommendations from their music teachers and submitting audition tapes for consideration. Luis Diaz, Mason Hone and brothers Jacob and Josh Arce represented Egling Middle School. Joining them were Colusa High School freshmen Alec Schantz and Jada Garcia. Johnson Junior High School in Arbuckle was represented by Sabrina Bennett, John Castro, and brother and sister Eric and Sally Shoaf.
"They really pushed these kids. They were here from 12 to 9 (on Friday) with a dinner break, and then were back here at 9 (on Saturday). Keep in mind, these are 6th-, 7th-, 8th-, and 9th-graders," Phenicie said.
According to one music teacher, it was the students' dedication that earned them a spot on the CMEA-NS Honor Band.
"They are very talented young individuals, as all human beings are," said Randy Humphreys, the music instructor at Alder Creek Middle School. "I think what sets them apart is their willingness to work and dedicate themselves to the art form, rather than any talent they were given."
Hone, choir stand out
Between songs during the CMEA-NS performance, Brown recognized Hone, awarding him a scholarship to attend Donner Mine Music Camp at Zeibright Gold Mine this summer.
The CMEA-NS Select Choir — composed of 88 vocalists — performed after the Honor Band. The guest conductor for the choir was Susan Tevis, who has worked as faculty member at numerous universities and is the artistic director and conductor of the five choirs of the Children's Choir of Chico.
"Just for me, it was an absolute pleasure to be a part of the transformation of these students from different schools, who came together to make such beautiful music," Tevis said.
As full as Phenicie's hands were with hosting the Junior High Honor Band, he still had time to check in on Colusa High School saxophonist Thomas Critchfield.
Critchfield — a junior who is due to make a second consecutive trip to Carnegie Hall to play American Honors Performance Series Concert Band in February — was in Stockton for the All Northern California Honor Band last weekend. According to Phenicie, he is the first Colusa County musician to earn a place in that band, which receives audition tapes from central California up to the Oregon border, as well as the Reno area.
"They have another audition when they get there, where they have to play the music they submitted on their audition tapes live, play a number of scales from memory, and sight read music to find out what chair they will be," Phenicie said on Saturday. "Well, when Thomas got there, he found out that some of the other tenor saxophone players there were selected to the All-State Honor Band, which he wasn't selected to. So he was really nervous about the live audition, and spent a lot of time practicing for it. And guess what?"
Here Phenicie paused, and a grin crept across his face before he continued: "He beat them all out for first chair."