At Denison High School, student musicians are setting their sights on Austin, as 30 representatives from the school’s band and choir programs will be advancing to the Texas State Solo-Ensemble Contest in May. The contest will feature musicians from across the state who have advanced from local and regional level contests.

At Denison High School, student musicians are setting their sights on Austin, as 30 representatives from the school’s band and choir programs will be advancing to the Texas State Solo-Ensemble Contest in May. The contest will feature musicians from across the state who have advanced from local and regional level contests.


Twenty-seven members of the DHS band will compete in 13 solo performances and six ensemble performances, with many students performing in both categories. For some, this will mark a return to the statewide contest, for others, it will be the first time competing at this level.


"I’ve never been to state before," said Brittany Armstrong, who will be competing in a clarinet trio. Armstrong said she she is nervous about the contest as she does not know what criteria the judges will be grading her, but is hoping for the best.


"You learn what (the judges) want and look to fill those criteria," said J.C. Ivers, who is returning to the contest, competing as a solo percussionist and in a quartet and octet percussion performances. The octet will be performing the "Overture for Percussion" by John Beck, which incorporates pieces for snare and tenor drums, timpani, xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel and other percussive instruments. The students in the octet said the piece has become "like second nature" after they’ve been working on it since January.


Martha Hayes, who will be Denison’s sole representative in the choir competition, will be returning for the second time after being awarded a one rating — the highest score given at the competition — last year. For her performance, Hayes will be performing "Nancy Hanks" by Katherine Davis, which tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s mother coming back to life as a ghost and learning of her son’s assassination.


"It is very haunting and powerful," said Hayes. "It is a mom worrying about her child."


Hayes said she practiced the song heavily when she used it to audition for a summer opera camp. While the song is not her current focus, she said she still practices about 30 minutes a day and has weekly sessions with a voice coach.


The contest will be held on May 24 and May 26, with all performances hosted at the University of Texas at Austin, except for the percussion contests, which will be held at Connally High School in Pflugerville.


The following students will be representing Denison at the state competition: Lee Adams, Jacob Deen, Audrey Altnether, Grace Hall, Brittany Armstrong, Joselle Mallillin, Matthew Bernirt, Andrew Wheeler, Lucy Harbin, Shelby Via, Megan Doyle, Abby Perschall, Aileen Sanchez, Kristina Vanderlei, Bryan Batts, J.C. Ivers, David Mast, Juan Rangel, Joshua Brown, Tannim Creech, Laura Muller, Sydney Parks, Hannah Schneider, Casey Harty, Haley Dunn, Mattie Barrera, Christina Hedrick, Flor Ortiz, Taylor Schmitz and Martha Hayes.