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Practice, practice, practice...

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | January 24, 2023 1:30 AM

MOSES LAKE — The wind ensemble ran through the selection nice and slow the first time through; there are details that need attention. The tempo picked up, faster and then faster still. When practice was over, there was still work to be done – the sound needs to be crisp, the players as close to perfect unison as they can get.

Moses Lake High School band instructor Pablo Hernandez reminded his musicians that practice now, even when it’s a chore, will pay dividends later.

“Don’t wait until you feel inspired for practice,” he said. “Perspiration is better than inspiration.”

There’s a goal at the end of all that practice and careful attention to detail. Carnegie Hall awaits.

The wind ensemble will be performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City in April, one of the schools selected to participate in the National Invitational of Band and Orchestra. The students are working on raising money for the trip, individually and as a group. Ensemble member Dulcinea Villarreal said the end goal is worth the work.

“We’ve got to raise a ton of money to go,” she said. “So a lot of us have gotten jobs so that we can go. We’ve done tons of fundraising, just sacrificed so much time to raise this money for this trip. Because it’s really once in a lifetime to get to play – never going to be able to do it again.”

Hernandez said music department instructors started looking at possible options about a year ago, a performance opportunity that would be both fun and challenging.

“Taking the band somewhere on a trip that was centered around performance,” he said, “ideally targeting some kind of cultural hub. This ended up being the opportunity that materialized for us, and we decided to move forward with it because we felt that it was a special opportunity for the students to do something unique.”

The five pieces the band will be playing are not difficult, said ensemble player Oliver Donovan, but they’re not easy either.

Ensemble member Makhaela Parrish said both easy and difficult musichave their challenges.

“All pieces have their hard parts – the slower stuff, some people would say simpler pieces, you’ve got to learn how to come together as a group to sound better,” she said. “When you hit the harder pieces you have to add more technical stuff.”

The selections range from music by early 20th century British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams to an orchestral arrangement of a choral song by contemporary American composer Susan LaBarr.

The music has to fit the players and take into account their strengths and weaknesses, Hernandez said.

“The other part of the equation is that we just want to play beautiful music,” he said. “We want to make sure that whatever we’re giving the kids music, it’s music of a good quality.”

Most of the ensemble’s musicians have years of experience, taking up band in middle school, they said. They weathered the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented them from playing together in person.

There is a secret to performing well, Parrish said.

“Practice,” she said. “A lot of practice. Individually and as a group.”

It’s a high school ensemble; students graduate and as a result, the group has to remake itself every year. Hernandez estimated about 12 players from the MLHS class of 2022 had to be replaced. In addition, the trip to Carnegie Hall is not the only performance facing the ensemble.

“So we’re having to practice a lot. There’s definitely a lot of work involved on the part of the students,” he said

Along with the daily practice in class, the ensemble rehearses twice each month on Tuesday nights and one Saturday morning each month.

Ensemble player Ruben Ulyanchuk said he can tell when all the practice has paid off when individual players have learned to blend their styles into a whole.

“It’s not just noise. You’re actually making some music,” he said.

“Waiting for the finished product, practicing, and when you – I won’t say master a piece but get really good at it, especially in a performance when you hear it all come together, it’s so rewarding,” ensemble player Camryn McFadden said.

“We’ve come pretty far from the beginning of the year,” said ensemble player Brendan Harwood. “And I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the years.”

In most music competitions the players are measuring themselves against a standard, not necessarily other players. So the Carnegie Hall festival is not a competition, at least not exactly.

“It’s competitive at heart,” said ensemble member Sawyer Bechyne. “I think we’ll do very well. You don’t want to come unprepared – we’re flying to the other end of the country to play.”

The wind ensemble is still raising money for the trip. People who want to donate can contact Hernandez at pahernandez@mlsd161.org.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Jamisen White works to blend his sound and style with the rest of the Moses Lake High School wind ensemble during practice.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Moses Lake High School music instructor Pablo Hernandez gives the downbeat.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

The Moses Lake High School wind ensemble, including the flautists pictured, is raising money for a trip to perform at Carnegie Hall.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

A sheet of music fills a stand at Moses Lake High School wind ensemble practice.

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