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Liberty band students accepted in college honor bands

Band members at Liberty Middle School have been auditioning and earning seats in honor bands at Alabama colleges.

The honor band at the University of Alabama in Huntsville included students in North Alabama and South Tennessee, Liberty band director Gwen Rakoff said. The University of Alabama at Birmingham honor band is a statewide organization.

Directors nominated students based on their musicianship, technical ability, character and academics.

For Auburn University, students applied with a resume at the AU Band Web site. “The Auburn Director of Bands then sent a list of students and asked for recommendations,” Rakoff said.

For all honor bands, Liberty musicians auditioned for chair placement by playing scales, a prepared excerpt or etude and sight-reading.

Students in the UAH Junior High Honor Band were freshmen Sureena Montiero-Pai, bass clarinet; Moon Su Kang, contra-alto clarinet; Jesse Hartfield, alto saxophone; Brian Bradley, tenor saxophone; Logan Esterling, baritone saxophone; Eric Bean and Dean Gernon, trumpet; Austin Bartlett, euphonium; Randall Fletcher, tuba; and eighth-grader Jordan Wynja, trumpet.

UAB sponsored white, green and festival (or top) honor bands for middle school students. Liberty eighth-graders earning chairs were Lorraine Rosello, tuba, white; Armon Mobasher, trombone, green; and Cindy Ratkovich, clarinet, Rebecca Draper, alto saxophone; Thomas Griffin, trombone and Ethan Rakoff, tuba, festival honor band.

Logan Esterling, a freshman baritone saxophonist, will perform with the Auburn High School Symphonic Honor Band.

Liberty students in Auburn’s middle school symphonic honor band are freshmen Maddie Kelley, clarinet; Sureena Monteiro-Pai, bass clarinet; Hannah McMillen, French horn; Austin Bartlett, euphonium; and eighth-grader Noah Elmore, trombone. Eighth-grade flutist Sarah DeFalco was selected for the Auburn Junior Honor Band.

Honor bands have a “strenuous weekend of rehearsals and performances,” Rakoff said. After auditions on Thursday afternoon, they start rehearsals Thursday night, continue rehearsing all day on Friday and prepare for a Saturday evening concert.

“Students spend about 14 hours preparing for the final concert,” Rakoff said. “It’s truly amazing what they can accomplish and quality of music, in just the span of a weekend.”

In the honor bands, the Liberty students are collaborating with students across the region, learning from clinic conductors and receiving exposure to outstanding music, she said.

“When I auditioned, I wasn’t scared, but I was very anxious,” Randall Fletcher said. “No matter how much anybody practices, they still get butterflies in their stomach. I learned to play better and to play with a wide variety of instruments.”

“We’re placing more students into our district and all-state honor bands than ever before,” Rakoff said. “My goal is to continue to build a band program to make our community, our school and especially these students and parents very proud.”

Ethan Rakoff said he enjoyed meeting students from other bands at UAB. “It was really fun for me as his band director and also as his proud mom,” Gwen Rakoff said.

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