For the last 30 years, hundreds of high school aged musicians have gathered at the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the East Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association Senior Clinic. After auditioning, students are placed in a band with consideration to their musical abilities, making those present at this weekend event the best high school musicians in East Tennessee.
The weekend consists of constant practicing and preparing for the concerts on Saturday after seeing the music for the first time Thursday night. Sophomore student Ally Rogers stated that being around other musicians that play the same instruments “humbles you and makes you realize you aren’t the only one.”
All the students present want to be there and want to better themselves as musicians. Being able to be around so many people with shared interests is something incredibly special.
In every band, there is a clinician who is selected by the ETSBOA for their vast and impressive work within the musical community. For every clinician, there are to be 5 pieces selected to play for the Saturday afternoon concerts. Each of the students interviewed expressed that they enjoyed the difficulty of the music, but overall, most of the pieces weren’t something they would normally enjoy. At these clinics, students not only have the opportunity to meet new people, but also the opportunity to be introduced to new music and music styles.
Different from most schools, each band has around 150 students and a balance between the multiple instrument groups. Junior Matthew Mihalic mentioned that being a part of a larger band is a “cool experience” compared to the Central High School band where there are only around 50 people. The large band setting is something that allows for musicians to learn how to become more aware of their sound within an ensemble, but it also reminds them that the needs of bands are ever-changing. There will be circumstances where one thing is needed and another is not, and knowing that allows for leaders to step up to help others.
Not only is this clinic about music, but it’s also about the time away from home with friends. Being stuck in a hotel for the weekend with hundreds of band kids as well as people who you know or have become friends with is a unique experience. All of those I spoke with affirmed that hanging out with friends was one of their favorite parts, and they felt closer with their fellow band members afterwards. The community that comes from these events is something unlike other groups and organizations.
Though only there for a short time, there are so many opportunities to make memories and have fun while furthering yourself as a musician. Rogers’ favorite memory was the reveal of the hotel room due to it being underwhelming and different from her expectations. Mihalic’s favorite memory was being able to stay up late with friends and be able to experience diverse activities. Junior Tayte Belyea’s favorite memory was messing with and growing closer to his band director Alex Mink. Junior Jack Myers’ favorite memory was dinner at Calhoun’s as well as hanging out with friends. Though each of these experiences are so different, they were all created due to the atmosphere that is made when away from typical, everyday life.
The ETSBOA Senior Clinic is a weekend filled with experiences which range from complex music to new friendships. After this weekend, Belyea says that he has “come back with more commitment” to becoming a better musician and making this clinic next year. Every student I interviewed will definitely be trying out next year in hopes of being able to experience this once again.
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