Most of the junior high musicians who have earned a special honor have played an instrument for less than two years.
But already, 13 middle school and freshman students in Johnson County have been named some of the best band musicians in the state.
Students in Center Grove, Franklin and Edinburgh have been named to the Indiana Junior All-State Band.
They represent a good portion of the 100 students in Grades 7-9 chosen for what band directors refer to as one of the toughest bands to make for a junior high student.
The students had to compete against students in some of the biggest middle school and high school bands in the state.
“To my students, it is one of the most prestigious things they can be selected for in middle school,” said Sam Fritz, director of bands at Center Grove Middle School Central.
Students selected for all-state band will go to Fort Wayne to rehearse and will perform at the Indiana Band Masters convention.
Some students don’t start playing an instrument until middle school. And while many high school bands gain experience competing in statewide competitions year round, middle school students typically get to perform in only a few concerts for parents, Fritz said.
Band directors push their students, in some cases recommending that they audition for the all-state band.
Students are looking forward to the chance to perform for an audience other than their parents, said Michaela Burchett, a freshman at Edinburgh Community High School.
“It is not like having an audience of parents,” Burchett said. “It is usually just for the parents. Parents are a smaller audience.”
Students spent hours practicing for their audition, which consisted of a tape mailed in and judged by two band directors, Fritz said.
“That means two different peers of mine found these students to be exemplary,” he said.
Some students who made the All-State band auditioned in past years didn’t make it and then used the year to practice more with the goal of making the elite band.
Many spent hours crafting their audition tape to make sure it was perfect.
T.J. Vculek, an eighth-grader at Franklin Community Middle School, spent about four hours perfecting his audition tape.
If he heard one note that wasn’t correct, he redid the whole tape.
“If none were the best, we did it again and again,” he said.
Band members also will get the chance to rehearse with other band directors and students from other schools.
They got their music a few weeks before the holiday break. Most planned to practice during the holidays.
Allison Greenwell, an eighth-grader at Franklin Community Middle School, said she is looking forward to learning from other students and band directors.
“I will have all these amazing musicians around me,” she said.