BIG PINEY – Musical taste is as personal as an individual’s fingerprint.
Autumn Wright of Big Piney High School ranked “Claire de Lune” and “River Flows in You” by French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy, contemporary Korean composer and pianist Yiruma, as favorites.
His senior colleague Anton Vickrey has named the group Gorillaz, singer-songwriter Cody Fry and country, bluegrass and folk artist Tyler Childers, among others.
The elders agreed on one point: music is an integral part of life.
“Music is something that I love,” Wright said. “There’s no question that playing music is the best thing I can do with my time. Music has always been an outlet for the madness of life. When I sit down and play a song, or I’m in a band, or I have my headphones on, I feel better.
Vickrey described the music as “expression in its purest form”.
“No matter who does it or how it is done, music is a work of art and a form of personal expression,” he said. “It’s just awesome to me and amazing the different ways music is presented to the world.”
Vickrey and Wright combined their passion for music with endless hours perfecting their instrument art to each earn a spot in the highly selective 2022 All-State Band. Hosted by the Wyoming Music Educators Association, the Honorary Ensembles of All States represent one of the greatest achievements of a high school musician’s career.
Wright made the All-State selection by playing his main instrument, the oboe.
“It was really cool doing All-State because the oboe is such a tough instrument and I wasn’t quite sure if I got into it,” she said.
Vickrey made a last-minute change from clarinet, mastering bass clarinet ahead of the November 2 auditions.
“All-State – this is something I never dreamed of accomplishing,” he said. “This opportunity does not happen to everyone.
Small school, big opportunities
Wright and Vickrey grew up surrounded by music.
Vickrey’s aunt played the clarinet in college and her father the guitar.
Vickrey started clarinet in middle school, choosing to follow in his family’s footsteps and the encouragement of Evanston Middle School orchestral teacher Kevin Blackwell.
“Sir. Blackwell took me around the band room and let me try out instruments and find what I’m interested in,” Vickrey said. “I’ve been stuck with the clarinet ever since and I have to thank him for that. Music was the only thing I found I was good at.
The piano filled the Wright house. Wright’s mother, father and grandmother all played the piano and she started taking lessons from a young age.
Wright remembers seeing his sisters perform on stage in the group BPHS. When she entered college, Wright jumped at the chance to branch out and learn a new instrument.
“I’ve always been around concerts and music,” she said. “It wasn’t even a question of joining the group.”
Wright began to play the transverse flute. Seats quickly filled in the flute section of Big Piney Middle School. Professor Travis Swanson, recognizing Wright’s musical talent, encouraged her to try out an instrument that few college students are ready to play: the oboe.
“I had no idea what it was like at first,” Wright said. “I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be because it has a double reed and half holes, but ultimately it’s a fun instrument to learn.”
Vickrey and Wright didn’t settle for just one instrument and both seized the opportunity to branch out into BPHS. This has proven to be an advantage for the school’s small group program, allowing motivated students to take on multiple roles to fill the gaps in the various group programs.
Vickrey has taken to bass clarinet, tenor saxophone and bass guitar and is trying to learn the piano.
“At Evanston, you were just another part of the group,” Vickrey said. “Then these opportunities opened up to BPHS. I am ready to learn just about anything.
In addition to piano, flute, and oboe, Wright learned to play bass guitar, covering all basic music groups except brass.
“It was really interesting to learn different instruments,” Wright added. “It helps you understand music better. “
Making the All-State Honor Party is not a piece of cake.
“We get our music a few weeks before the audition,” Wright explained. “It’s usually a few studies. We also need to learn our scales, including the chromatic scale, and play them to the tempo. “
Candidates from all states complete the “Studies and Scales” in front of two judges with long checklists of expectations.
“The rating scale is based on your ability to play the beat, how well you are in tune, your articulation and your musicality,” Vickrey said. “All of these factors are worth a number of points. If you tank one, it’s a bit rough.
Auditions are recorded and students only get one chance.
“You have to nail it,” Vickrey said.
Preparing for the auditions and the All-State performance involves significant practice – no small task for students juggling busy extra-curricular schedules.
In addition to playing in the jazz band BPHS, the harmony orchestra and the dynamic group, Wright and Vickrey participate in multiple activities. Wright is vice president of the Student Council, a member of the National Honor Society, and plays volleyball and basketball.
Vickrey is a member of the National Honor Society, competes in the State TEAMS (Test of Engineering, Aptitude, Mathematics and Science) competition, and fights for the Punchers.
Vickrey and Wright also performed and performed as pit musicians for the high school musical in November.
“When we were training for the auditions, we had ‘Oklahoma’ at the same time,” Wright said. “It was hard trying to find a balance for when you were going to practice all-state music with everything for ‘Oklahoma.’ “
Vickrey added, “It got to a point where you were practicing your music along with everything else. When you are in class, you watch the music. The five minutes you have when you get home before anything else starts, you watch.
The All-State Honors concerts will be live again this year, and Wright and Vickrey look forward to performing to an audience in Rock Springs from January 16-18.
“All-State is like an honor band,” Wright said. “It’s a lot of fun because it’s a much bigger group than we’re used to. It’s pretty cool what you can put together in a few days with a bunch of kids who are dedicated to music.
Vickrey is delighted to collaborate with “highly selected” musicians.
“It was the kids who really worked on their music,” he added.
Vickrey plans to attend the University of Wyoming and pursue a major in International Studies or Journalism. Wright envisions a career as a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Regardless of where their next steps take them, Wright and Vickrey both plan to enroll in music classes at college, whether that’s playing in an ensemble or taking a music composition class.
Wright thanked BPHS group teacher Travis Swanson for encouraging her to stay true to the music and for convincing her to play the oboe one more year.
“I have had a lot of great experiences in a group,” she added.
Wright also gave credit to his mother.
“She’s always been a great support and she really helped me get started in music,” she said.
Vickrey congratulated Swanson and his teacher in Evanston, Kevin Blackwell.
“He’s the reason I made music in the first place,” he said.
Vickrey thanked his father for “always supporting the musical trips that I make”.
“Music has always been my passion, and he knew it, and always pushed me forward even when I had doubts,” said Vickrey.