Playing an instrument is more than proper finger placement and the ability to read music.
"A piece of music is only ink on dead wood, until a musician breathes life into it," Mike Buskirk, the band teacher at Rim Country Middle School, said.
A week ago, 19 music students from RCMS breathed that passion into their music at the White Mountain Music Teachers Northeast Region Junior High Festival of Honor.
Three strings, seven choir and nine band students from RCMS were chosen by the festival's chairperson to join students from nine other junior high schools at the regional festival.
"This is the same ashree all-star games from 30 teams, all happening on the same day," Buskirk said.
Students received the music about a month ahead of time, so they had time to become familiar with it, before merging with the festival musicians.
They traveled to Springerville, Nov. 5, then, practiced all day Tuesday for a concert that evening.
Sing with heart
"Getting to know and sing with everyone was so energizing," said soprano Destiney Henning.
The choir sang four songs.
"Two were hard, one (the song, Kyrie Eleison) was in a different language," alto Kelsey Burba said.
"The words "weren't like normal words" in I'se the By. It means I Am the Boy," alto Harmony Walker said. The song is an old sea chantey.
"The director (Connie Turley) had a lot of enthusiasm. Whenever we did something right, she would freak out and move," alto Randee Nelson said.
"The director started crying when we sang ‘Look Up and Listen,'" Henning added.
Strings students did not know what to expect from their first year at the festival.
RCMS strings teacher Candyce Simmons characterized the four songs her students had to learn as "difficult arrangements."
As part of the orchestra, the teens learned how the bow sounds when it is drawn flat across the strings, versus at an angle and that by playing closer and faster to the bridge, they could play louder.
"We did bluegrass pieces and love songs," violinist Katie Jones said.
The three RCMS violin players performed the "William Tell Overture," "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair," "Blue Grass Country" and "Rumpelstiltskin."
The practice time was just right, Jones said.
The band students passed their enthusiasm to their classmates when they returned. Clarinet player Sierra Royer and bass clarinet player Alisha Bayless said they thought this year's band director was better than the one at the 2006 festival.
"She (Laura Scholten) participated with us. The (2006 director) just said ‘good work' when we did something right," Bayless said.
"Last year's director just said one, two, ready, go, this year's director gave us big beats," trombone player John Buskirk said.
"We worked on spots in our music that were tough until we got it right, tuba player Tanner Hintze said.
"Does anyone else you know do that," Mike Buskirk asked with a smile on his face.
"You," clarinet player Sierra Royer said.
Despite the director, Royer said she thought the band was better in 2006.
When dozens of musicians get together to play for the first time, it is a learning experience.
There was a boy who came from a band of 11 and had only played the snare drum softly.
"When we told him to ‘go for it because this is a band of 116,' e had lots more fun," Buskirk said.
RCMS students heard a bassoon and a contra alto clarinet for the first time.
Bayless sat next to a bassoon player. He used a plastic, rather than the wooden reeds clarinet players favor.
"It just sounds different," Bayless said.
The music presented different challenges to each all-star performer.
"At the very end of each song, the music was loud and quick and required fast finger work," Marcy Wards, another clarinet player, said.
Kendra Bland played her clarinet for the second year at the festival. When the girl playing next to her could not quite get the music, Bland had to overcome the distraction.
"When they sit next to other, kids whoave difficulty reading rhythms or executing passages they realize how good they really are.And, conversely, when they sit next to a great player, they set higher goals for themselves," Mike Buskirk said.
"Some of the music wasn't that hard, but "Panther in the Sky" was the hardest. I had to switch from chimes to the xylophone to the drums with only two beats in between," Hannah Dalgai said.
Liz Harpe said she enjoyed meeting and hanging out with band kids from other schools.
Harpe plays the mellophone. "It has less tubing than a French horn," she said.
When Buskirk questioned the band, do you want to go back to the festival next year, they responded with a resounding, "Yes!"