Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Home News
Monday, Jan. 26, 2009 | 1:15 p.m.
Before her performance with the Clark County School District honor band got under way Saturday, Kelsey Ripplinger, a Boulder City High School student, already knew the sound she would be waiting for.
"When you hit the last note, it echoes through the hall and everyone is silent," the 17-year-old oboe player said. "It's different being able to play here."
Ripplinger was one of about 240 students throughout the School District chosen to perform in the honor band, which has three components: A symphonic band and two wind orchestras. They performed at Artemus Ham Hall at UNLV.
More than 700 students auditioned to be part of the band.
Those who make it get no school credit or pay for the hours of their own time they spend learning the music and rehearsing. While most students had the day off from school Friday, the honor band students worked the entire day, perfecting their pieces.
Why do they do it? Honor band provides an opportunity to play with the most talented students from around the School District, as well as some of the most respected directors from across the country, students said.
"Preparing for it and knowing what's to come was exciting," Zack Uzueta, 16, a Bonanza High School percussion player, said. "It's definitely worth the effort. I wish more students would try out."
Directors of the three bands this year included Dick Mayne, associate director of bands at the University of Northern Colorado; Gregg Brimm, band director at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago; and Rick McEnaney, coordinator of secondary fine arts for the School District.
Each director was requested by band directors from Clark County schools, McEnaney said, and are usually chosen more than a year in advance.
Because the directors often travel a long distance for the performance, they can't be in town to walk the students through the music. It's up to students to practice and master their parts on their own time.
Brandon Durham, 16, a bassoonist from Basic High School, said making that time can be tough.
"That is the hardest thing to do," he said. "I'm usually up until 11 p.m. finishing homework anyway, so I just had to take advantage of any opportunity I could find."
The work is worth the return, Durham said. This is his third year in honor band, and he's seen vast improvements in his playing since the first year.
"Without this, I don't think I'd be getting so much better," he said.
The directors seemed to be one of the highlights for a majority of students. They each bring their own personality to the performances, one that is always different than the students' current directors.
"It's different from anything else we do in the year," Lucas Chapin, a trombone player from Coronado High School said. "You're kind of meant to be more of a musician. You're given a little more responsibility."
The sense of responsibility is something they all share. While in a regular band class there may be students who aren't excited or interested in being in the class, that's not the case with honor band, students said.
"Everyone that's here wants to be here, so they play with more desire, more passion," Nicolas Pinegar, a bassoon player from Liberty High School, said.
Stefe Hernandez of Silverado agreed.
"You're not just playing the notes. You're playing the music," the clarinet player said.
While some students may not be interested in daylong rehearsals, honor band students are just a bit different.
"Since you have a whole day, it gets you really focused," Whitney Cox, clarinet player from Palo Verde High School, said. "I wish we could do this all the time."
Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].