Musicians celebrating recent prestigious efforts: All State musicians aiming for first chair placements

By: Hannah Sanderman

Today, 42 CFHS musicians are in Ames preparing for this year’s All State Music Festival which will be held this Saturday, Nov. 21.

After making All State, students in both band and orchestra continue to practice and prepare for a critical part of their All State process: chair placement auditions.

These auditions took place yesterday on Thursday, Nov. 19, day one of the three day event. As soon as all the busses of eager student musicians arrive in Ames on Thursday afternoon, the chair placement auditions began.

Senior Liz Swanson, a three-year All Stater on the clarinet, was nervous about the heightened competition that comes with chair placement auditions. “This competition is the people who are good enough to be at All State,” Swanson said.

Her goal for this year was to be one of the top players on the second clarinet part. “I know the people who made the first part, and if I’m not competing against them, then I have a really good chance of being high up,” Swanson said.

Senior Liv Martin, a four-year All Stater on the cello, hoped to secure principal spot, the first chair cellist. “I would really like to end my four years as an All Stater as being first chair,” Martin said. “It would mean a lot to me and would be a great experience, but we’ll see what happens.”

For Swanson, the initial All State auditions are more stressful than the chair placement auditions in Ames. “Once you get there you know you’re in, it’s just the matter of how high up you will be,” Swanson said.

But without a doubt, chair placement auditions will be the most stressful and nerve racking part for Martin during All State. “[Auditioning] is pretty scary, and I know everyone is nervous, but I think I especially feel it more than other people because there is such a high expectation for me to do really well,” Martin said. “Whenever there is an expectation, it makes things even more nerve racking for the person who has to perform to those standards.”

The band chair placement auditions are similar to the orchestra ones in the way they make the players’ palms clammy and their hearts beat quickly, but that’s where the similarities end. “For us [band], there are two people sitting at a table trying to intimidate you a lot,” Swanson said. “They have the music open, and they say start at this measure. Ready, go. They don’t give a metronome. They don’t give you anything. You just have to take a deep breath and go for it. These auditions have given me good practice in calming my nerves.”

Chair placement auditions for orchestra are blind auditions. “The judges can’t see you, but they can hear you,” Martin said. “You can’t even speak inside the room because the judges can’t know if you are a female or a male. It’s supposed to be the least biased audition possible.”

One positive that Martin finds in these chair placement auditions is the great learning experience they provide which will help her prepare for her future career. “I want to become a professional musician and play in a professional orchestra,” Martin said. “All State has been a really good way for me to get a taste of the experience that I would have auditioning for professional orchestras.”

Despite her nerves and stress, Martin hoped to snag that first chair spot and make her last All State a memorable one. “There’s a solo I really want to get, and you have to be the principal to get the solo,” Martin said. “It’s my last year doing All State, and I really want to kick some butt and get that principal spot.”

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