Each year, high school students across East Tennessee gather at the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg to participate in the East Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association All-East Clinic. Students prepare lyrical and technical performances, scales and sight-reading to play for judges in January who place students in bands according to their skill.
The weekend clinic consists of constant practice and preparations for concerts occuring all day Saturday. Students meet with their conductor and fellow band members for the first time on Thursday night and proceed to create an entire concert. They work diligently taking every detail into account, as each person in the room is a seasoned musician. For one weekend only, they work as a group, unified in their adoration for music.
This year, Central was lucky enough to send 8 students to Galinburg; Tatye Belyea, River Cox, Will Doty, Elizabeth Greene, Matthew Mihalic, Ian Myers, Jack Myers and Ally Rogers. Out of the 8 students, Matthew Mihalic and Ally Rogers’ scores also made them eligible for the All-State East Clinic in March, featuring the best young musicians in Tennessee.
Out of the 8 students from Central, Belyea, Doty, Mihalic and both Myerses are seniors. All except Doty are returning to the clinic and are excited to be a part of the All-East community again. The clinic welcomes students of all backgrounds and pushes them by providing varietal music and guest clinicians from around the country. The higher 11/12 blue band was directed by Colonel Michael J. Colburn of the United States Marine Band, and the lower 11/12 red band was directed by Auburn Associate Director of Bands Corey Spurlin.
Each of the students share experiences during the weekend, but personally, they are all affected differently. Going into the clinic, students audition either due to habit, expectations by their teachers or parents or the yearn to get better at their instrument. Greene, a returning junior, says, “I find that playing in ensembles with people from other schools and with really good skill levels can boost me up.”
Rogers is a junior bassoon player who has auditioned for the clinic twice, making All-State East both times. She is an aspiring professional musician and does everything she can to better herself as both an artist and a person. “I was excited to play with people just as good as me [and] even better,” she said going into the clinic.
For her, preparing for the clinic included taking lessons with her teacher, playing for anyone that would listen and trying to “include the little details… that would separate [her] from the other people auditioning.” Making All-State East is an accomplishment she is extremely proud of and recognizes as a sign of her hard work. To those that didn’t make the clinic or plan to audition she says, “If you are thinking about auditioning, do it; it was a really great experience.”
Mihalic is a senior, and after 4 years of auditioning, he made the All-State East clinic on the bass clarinet, his secondary instrument. “I like playing my instrument, and I want to do as much as I can to get better at it,” he said when asked about why he auditioned. He knew that practicing as much as he could would be key in his success, and his scores reflected that; “If you practice more and learn from your mistakes last time, you have even more of a chance.”
He believes that this was “… the most fun clinic [he’d] ever been to” and is excited to be able to attend All-State East. He was pushed by the people around him and his conductors to succeed, and through all of that, he became closer friends with those both from his school and the clinic.
Similarly to Rogers and Mihalic, Belyea believes that Dr. Colburn “reignited [his] fire” for music and “made [him] think about doing music as a career.” Being at the clinic allowed him to see music differently than normal and offered a unique point of view on the audition; “You have everything on the line. Everything that you’ve been practicing for the past 2 months, for most, is hanging on the 15 minutes where you are performing.”
After auditioning upwards of 3 to 4 times, all 8 students offer advice for students that either didn’t make the clinic or are planning on auditioning:
Belyea says, “Just go for it. Even if you fail once… there’s no point in not doing it.”
Cox believes in the motto, “Fall two times, get up three.”
Doty suggests to “try for harder material that’s not out of your reach.”
Greene offered two pieces of advice; “When you aren’t practicing, someone else is” and “Don’t practice until you can get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong,”
Mihalic tells all peers to “keep at it [and] keep practicing.”
Ian Myers believes that “slow and steady wins the race.”
Jack Myers advises that “you shouldn’t make this a major stressor in your life.”
Rogers concludes that “there are other opportunities… that’s what a panel of judges thought on 1 day.”
All in all, the 2023 ETSBOA All-East Clinic showed that students in East Tennessee are motivated to grow in their artistry. The months of work and years of experience leads to a weekend where students are able to showcase their talent with people who share common interests. It offers a weekend full of music, creativity, friends and growth that will never go away.
Read more from The Bobcat Times:
2 Central Musicians Headed to All-State