Musicians capture 114 Division I’s at state contest

Ben Olsen/Staff Writer

On Saturday April 18, the CFHS bands, orchestra and chorus captured many top honors in the IHSMA Solo and Ensemble Contest.

Even though the location was a little far from home, according to band director Gerald Ramsey, the turnout was great.

“The contest took place at East High School in Waterloo, and we had about 125 band students participate,” Ramsey said.

At this contest, students performed solos and in small groups. The performances were evaluated by a judge and given a rating based on musical criteria.

“For each event, a judge uses a ballot with various categories on it. There are five points possible for each category, and the final Division rating is based on total points. Division 1 is the highest rating,” Ramsey said.

According to Ramsey, though, this contest isn’t all about high scores.

“Obviously we would like high scores, but another priority is to get as many kids involved as possible. Students who prepare a solo generally experience significant growth because they are practicing a lot on music that challenges them. But in addition to the kids who chose to perform solos, we try to get as many students as possible to participate in small groups. Typically the small ensemble literature does not provide as high a level of technical challenge as the solos, but this experience still provides ample opportunity for growth in ensemble and musicianship skills,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said this contest is a good tool for helping individuals shine.

“In a 60-member concert band, it’s possible for an individual player to hide problems of tone quality, intonation or any other aspect of musicianship. But in the small group where the players are one on a part, everybody suddenly has to maximize their level of performance, or it is really obvious,” Ramsey said.

He also noted that by working on the individual skills, the whole group ultimately improves.
“We always hear a marked improvement in our concert bands after the small ensemble experience, because a big percentage of the band is playing with a greater focus on all aspects of performance,” Ramsey said.

Overall, the Cedar Falls band students had an outstanding day.

Of 95 band entries, 72 received Division I ratings and 23 received Division II ratings. There were no Division III, IV or Vs given.

Even better, 11 soloists and groups received a perfect ballot, including seven soloists (Sarah Halloran, Julie Lang, Elise Berry, Ian Abbott, Mark Lukasiewicz, Louis Redfern and Steve Ramsey), the Clarinet Duet (Bethany Olson and Jasmine Singh), the Takes Brass Quintet (Natalie Takes, Annie Lantz, Kristen Counsell, Austin Javellana and Scott Frodsham), the Trombone Quartet (Paul Strike, Austin Javellana, Ben Morris and Steve Ramsey), and the Trombone Choir (Paul Strike, Austin Javellana, Ben Morris, Brendan Wood, Carson McRae, Drew Gienau, Scott Sesterhenn, David Farrell, Chris Kempf and Steve Ramsey).
To receive such high rankings, much preparation took place in advance to Saturday.
“Some soloists prepared for months, but most of our small groups have been practicing for four weeks,” Ramsey said.

Sophomore trombone choir member Scott Sesterhenn said he was happy with how things went down.

“For today, I practiced 20-plus hours between school and home, so I think I was well prepared. Today went well with both my quintet and T-bone choir receiving Division I’s. My solo got a Division II, which I was a little disappointed about, but other than that I can’t complain because I thought I played well today,” Sesterhenn said.

Overall, the Cedar Falls band has a rich tradition in their preparation and participation at this ensemble contest.

“I’m very proud of the participation rate within our band as compared to most other schools. All of our small groups get coaching from teachers, but a big part of the growth comes from the student musicians rehearsing without a director, making judgements and decisions on their own,” Ramsey said.

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