11 Musicians Triumph in District Honor Band Auditions

December 12, 2023 / Christine Coddington

District Honor Band

The annual District Honor Band auditions serve as a showcase for the musical talent and dedication of middle and high school students. In order to audition, students prepare a set of scales and learn a piece of music, then sight-read a short piece they haven’t seen before. Judges score each student on their performance and the top few students on each instrument earn a seat in the honor band for a weekend.

This year, students from 20 middle schools and 19 high schools attended.  Eastern Mennonite School sent 13 talented musicians to audition for a coveted spot in the honor band. Remarkably, 11 students earned a chair in the honor band. Eight of these musicians secured 1st or 2nd chair positions, a noteworthy achievement given the competitive nature of the auditions. 

Outstanding Musicians

Among the standout performers are Stephen Wright, who not only was awarded 1st chair in Bb Clarinet but also received the highest overall total score among middle school participants. Equally impressive is the dedication demonstrated by Tyler Blosser and Simon Blosser, who claimed 1st and 2nd chairs for trombone, representing excellence in brass instrumentation. A complete list of participants are listed below along with their awarded chair (in order by instrument pitch).

  • Emilee Shank-2nd chair flute
  • Abigail Fink-1st chair oboe
  • Stephen Wright-1st chair Bb Clarinet (and highest overall total score of any instrument in MS)
  • Daniel Castaneda-5th chair Bb Clarinet and 1st chair Bass Clarinet
  • Teo Diener-6th chair alto saxophone
  • Tyler Blosser-1st chair trombone
  • Simon Blosser-2nd chair trombone
  • Samuel Aponte-10th chair trumpet, 1st chair snare drum, 1st chair timpani
  • Isaac Ott-1st chair Concert Band trombone
  • Samuel Castaneda-2nd chair Concert Band baritone saxophone 
  • Willem Kishbaugh-1st chair Symphonic Band String Bass

Challenge to students

A tradition was started last year by Nick Gardner, band teacher at EMS, to offer a unique incentive to students who are auditioning for district honor band. Mr. Gardner offers to partially shave off his beard for every student who successfully auditions and excels. Last year the target goal was 5 students earning a chair in district honor band, 7 earned the honor. So this year he raised the goal to 7 students. To his surprise the outcome surpassed expectations with 11 students earning a chair!

I am so proud of the hard work these kids are putting in to get better at their instruments. It takes a lot of dedication and practice, and clearly it is paying off. Here’s hoping we can do it again next year!” – Nick Gardner, band teacher EMS

The journey continues for these accomplished musicians as they prepare to join other top scoring students at Staunton High School on February 2nd-3rd. There, they will collaborate with guest conductors, honing their skills together to perform an impressive concert in just two days. The public is invited to attend this musical concert and cheer on these dedicated young artists.

The success of this year’s District Honor Band auditions serves as an affirmation of the transformative power of music education. Mr. Gardner you might want to sharpen your beard razor, as we eagerly anticipate the crescendo of success in the years to come.

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