SMITHVILLE — Five Smithville senior band members have been recognized by the Missouri All-State Band as some of the best talent in Missouri. Three of the five — Michael Fletcher on tuba, Eastlyn Koons on clarinet and Will Duncan on saxophone — will perform with the all-state band Wednesday to Saturday, January 22 through 25, at Margaritaville Lake Resort in Osage Beach. Other band standouts are alternate Anthony Ragusa and Alex Sharkey, who received a honorable mention nod.
“It was pretty cool to see my name up on the giant projector,” percussionist Ragusa said of the band honor. “I know with most every other instrument you just do a lot of hard work on that specific instrument, but with percussion, you have to just play a multitude of smaller percussive instruments like the triangle and tambourine.”
To qualify for all-state, students must audition for all-district, which is divided into two bands, honor and concert. Those who are named to the honors band, with a select few from concert, automatically qualify to audition for all-state placement. There are two rounds of auditions, preliminary and final.
“I feel like saxophone has the hardest competition because in the state of Missouri there are a lot of great saxophone instructors you can go to,” Fletcher said of the competition students face. “It is absolutely stellar.”
Making it to the all-state level is all about practice, Duncan said. He had to compete against about 240 other top saxophone players in the state to clutch his seat.
Ragusa said finding time for practice on all the different percussive instruments is most challenging for percussionists. Sharkey, who was recognized at the state level for a second year, said taking lessons makes a difference, too. Though the two percussionists will not perform in the band, both ranked above top 10 in the state and plan to study Music Education at Missouri State University in the fall.
Fletcher has the most experience with all-state band of the Smithville five, as this year marks his third in a row.
“In 2018, where I was a sophomore, one of the seniors (Greta Zolynas) had mentioned that me getting in was like leaving a legacy. (She) said, ‘Now he has to make it every single year.’ Looking back at that, it was kind of fulfilling because it set me at a standard that I had to reach.”
Fletcher said going to state makes a world of difference to performers so he is eager to share the experience with Koons, who will be playing with the all-state band for her first time.
“The biggest thing for when Eastlyn is there,” Fletcher said, “is being immersed with all of these really good players.”
“I’ve wanted to go to all-state all four years,” Koons said of her high school band career, adding of the hundreds who audition, only about 26 make the cut. “I was really excited because it is pretty amazing to make it.”