Madison Middle School Students Selected to All-State Band/Choir
It’s been a huge year for the music department at Madison Middle School. Three exceptional students have been selected for the All-State Band and Choir, marking the first year any of Madison’s students have done so in the school’s history.
French Horn player Wyatt Andersen (8th grade), was accepted into the All-State band, while Sephora Bourhenne (7th grade) and Isabel Petrow (8th grade) both made the All-State Choir. All students are now working towards the prestigious All-State concert that takes place in Sacramento on February 3rd, 2024.
The girls’ success story is all the more remarkable given that Madison only formed their curricular choir this school year. Before that, the choir was only an after-school club.
That didn’t stop Choir Director Jessica Jonasson from encouraging students to enter the All-State audition process - a gamble that clearly paid off given Bourhenne and Petrow’s success.
(Photo caption: Wyatt Andersen, an 8th grader at Madison Middle School, is headed for the California all-state band)
Jonasson describes how the challenge was just what students needed. “My junior high choir kids started the year very timid but the All-State audition process made them exceptionally confident, even the ones who didn’t make it. They’re proud of themselves and [proud of] helping each other. Now they listen to me when I say ‘You’re actually pretty good!’”
Bourhenne, 12, couldn’t be more excited for the future. “I thought I did good, but I was nervous that I didn't. But I got in, so I was happy.” She says she’s looking forward to getting to perform with kids from all over California in Sacramento in February.
Band Director Zachary Squibb has been teaching students at Madison for the past four years, but this is the school’s first successful audition for All-State. “I took the position in 2019 and they’ve always had a good band program here,” he says, explaining that the previous band director didn’t focus on honor band entries.
With Squibb’s help, many students tried out this year. He knew that some were more than ready for the audition process because the level of music they were playing was so high.
“Jessica and I have to pick music that works for our entire ensembles,” he explains. “Sometimes the more advanced players and singers need extra challenges, so for us to hand them these high school or college level etudes and scales for auditions was great because they realized there’s a lot more to work on.”
He also described the intense pressure of the audition process. “There are very specific requirements on how to record the auditions and the tempos for the pieces. If you can’t play every single note, and at the tempo required, your audition is thrown out. You have to meet the requirements just to have your audition accepted, and to make it you have to be the top among those. It’s very, very competitive.”
New All-State band inductee, Wyatt Andersen, 13, has been playing French horn for three years and says, “Playing in the Madison band was an amazing experience. I’ve learned a lot and I am impressed with how much our band program has grown. I was pretty nervous for All-State but I practiced and had more confidence when I had to record the audition. I was very excited and proud of myself for achieving my goal.”
Wyatt will be joined by fellow French horn player Brady Reed, 16, who currently attends
Rancho Buena Vista High School and who also made the All-State band. The boys often rehearse together at RBV.
“The part I'm most excited about for All-State is playing in such a massive group,” says Reed. “This will be my first time playing in a large horn section, and I can't wait to perform with them. I know it will be an unforgettable experience.”
Squibb describes the impactful journey the students are about to embark on: “Most of our kids perform in the middle school gym. At All-State events, there are hundreds of students playing in impressive venues, so it’s amazing for kids to walk on stage and see a huge audience in a huge space.
“They’ll get to travel and play with other high-achievers and they’ll work with well-known and highly respected guest conductors.”
Reflecting on his own experience as an All-State band member during his school days in New Mexico, Squibb says, “It created some of the best experiences I had from high and middle school because the level is raised and you’re among the cream of the crop. You get inspired by the other musicians and the music you play is excellent and high level.”
Both Squibb and Jonasson are confident their students’ All-State journeys will inspire friends back home at Madison.
“Kids will talk to their friends and say how great it was,” says Squibb. “This is the first time we’ve had kids try out and the first year we’ve had kids make it. So I assume there will be more and more in years to come and that the level of our band and choir will go up with it. That’s the idea anyway.”
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