For Peter Griffin, an honors music festival was his first time playing bass in an orchestra. For singer Matthew Monagle, it was proof he doesn't need to hide in the back of the choir.
"You feel a lot better," said clarinetist Slim Cook. "It's a huge inspiration if nothing else."
Seven Juneau-Douglas High School students earned their way into the band, choir or orchestra at the All-State Honor Music Festival in Anchorage earlier this month. As with the Southeast festival in Haines last month, students must compete to get in and for their placement in the "chairs" of the instrumental groups.
"It's more concentrated," said Tim Powers, a junior who played the alto sax at the Southeast festival. "You get the best of the best."
Tenor Derrick Grimes, a junior who has been to Southeast and all-state festivals for two years, said he started preparing for all-state at the beginning of the school year. He met after school and on weekends with his teacher. Once he knew he had been accepted to all-state, he had to coordinate with other JDHS singers.
"At the festivals everybody wants to be there. And everybody wants to work because they earned that spot to be there," Grimes said. "It's more serious in the sense that everybody is more willing to work. But it's also more fun. Because everybody is so prepared, you can do so much more with the music."
"You always pick up on who you're around," said Cook, a sophomore who attended the Southeast festival this year. "It's always better to be with people who are a little better than you."
"I get variety. That's what I get out of it," said junior Robbie Bishop, a percussionist at the Southeast festival. "Everyone has their own personality and style in the percussion field."
Bass player Griffin, a junior, attended his first all-state festival this year and it was his first time playing with an orchestra. He usually plays as the only bass in a band.
"I had to practice a lot. I was playing with eight other bass players. I had to do things exactly the same as them - like the bow movements that I didn't have to in band because I play alone," Griffin said.
He played Mozart and Dvorak pieces at all-state. "The bass parts are a lot harder than what I usually see in band - very involved."
The three-day festivals didn't have workshops or much time for individual instruction, students said. But they work under nationally known conductors and learn how to play in a group, which is a musical skill in itself.
"You get a lot of teaching in how to play in one group, as an ensemble," said clarinetist Niko Hoskins, a senior who attended the regional and state festivals.
"We went from not having played together to playing beautiful music together," said Everett Buyarski, a graduating junior who was a clarinetist at the regional and state festivals this year.
Bass singer Monagle, a junior, said this is his first year of taking choir seriously and trying to excel. As a freshman, he lacked confidence and "hid in the back," he said. Scheduling conflicts kept him from the choir last year. But this year he earned his way to the regional and state festivals.
"It really helped me to remember that music is fun," Monagle said.
JDHS students accepted to all-state this year were band clarinetists Buyarski and Hoskins, orchestra bass Griffin and violinist Hale Loufbourrow, and choir tenor Grimes, bass Monagle and soprano Anna Ruddy.