MUSCATINE, Iowa — If you're looking to find talented, hard-working teenagers in Muscatine, you don't have to look any farther than the Muscatine High School band room. In addition to regular band rehearsals and performances, 24 students brushed up on their scales and learned new music in preparation for honor band auditions this winter.
"All of the students who do honor bands are always intrinsically driven, work hard, practice, and are helpful to their peers," says MHS Band Director Jeffrey Heid. "They are some of the best students we get to teach!"
Teddy Van Winkle, a sophomore trombone player, explains the appeal of honor bands. "The first time you audition for an honor band...it's just to see if you can make it, to see if you're good enough. But after making SEIBA (Southeast Iowa Bandmasters Association Honor Band) last year, I'm doing it more for the experience itself, the ability to make music with other good musicians."
Van Winkle started playing trombone in fifth grade because, "trombone was the only one I could make a decent sound on," he said with a laugh. Van Winkle also plays the contrabass for the MHS Orchestra and Jazz Band. "It's my thing," he says of music.
Jim Van Winkle, Teddy’s dad, said, “Teddy was born into a musical family. … But the hard work is all him. I’ve made the opportunities available, but it has been up to him to develop his talents, and he has done an amazing job.”
Gabby Hartman, a 14-year-old sophomore, will be traveling to New York to play with the 2014 High School Honors Performance Series from Feb. 6-10. She was selected from among thousands of students from Canada, the United States, and select international schools. The program includes rehearsals, a performance at Carnegie Hall, sightseeing and a Broadway show.
"It takes a lot of courage to compete or perform in front of an audience," said Karen Hartman, Gabby's mom. "We are proud of all of our children as they have developed the confidence to do this."
Hartman has been playing the bassoon for 3 1/2 years, and practices an hour every day, even on weekends. In warm weather, she sometimes plays outside. "Practicing is one of the best parts of my day," she says, smiling.
Hartman received the high honor of being selected for the All-State band last fall for the second time. She also participates in student council and enjoys singing, reading, writing and running.
Thomas Stackhouse is a senior tuba player who was selected for two honor bands this year. "In fifth grade we were trying out for which instrument we could play, and I was trying a bunch of mouthpieces, and the tuba was the only one I could actually fit my lips into to play," he says.
Stackhouse is an Eagle Scout and Assistant Scoutmaster for Wesley United Methodist Church's Troop 127. He also volunteers on the tech team at Wesley. He is in his fourth year of Chinese at MHS, and wants to continue learning the language. He also hopes to attend Stanford or MIT next year, and will continue to pursue his music by auditioning for bands wherever he goes to college.
Kristi Heinberg, a sophomore who was also selected for two honor bands, started playing clarinet in fourth grade. She practices during study hall or after school if she's not scheduled to work at her job at Fareway in Muscatine.
"I like the band as a whole," she says. "It's nice to have a whole group of friends with you. I also just like having it to push myself. I know my director, Mr. Heid, pushes me to do more stuff than I think I can do..." Heinberg also enjoys reading and drawing.
Gerardo Gomez, a junior, plays alto saxophone as well as drums and piano in the MHS Jazz Band. He practices 2-3 hours a day on sax and an hour on piano. He is co-captain of the MHS Debate Team, and takes business classes at Muscatine Community College.
"I do the honor bands and I do all of the extracurricular activities like solo and ensemble and pit orchestra here at MHS because I know that's going to make me better," he says. Gomez was selected for the ISU Cardinal Honor Band and as Lead Alto Sax in the SEIBA Jazz Band. He hopes to attend an Ivy League school after he graduates next year.
Though ISU and SEIBA selections have already been made, MHS band students are still waiting to find out who has been selected for the University of Iowa Honor Band. And no matter the results, many will try again next year, along with audition rookies – all of them ready for a challenge.
"We are very fortunate to have so many talented and gifted musicians in Muscatine. I often feel our community may even be a little 'unaware' of how great the students are." says Heid.