Finding their rhythm

EW PALESTINE — The sleeves of his black tuxedo were pushed to his elbows, revealing his crisp, white shirt. Evan Cade, a New Palestine High School musician, stood before his drum set, alone, waiting to perform.

With his fingers wrapped tightly around his drum sticks, Evan stood in silence, patiently waiting for the judge to give him the nod to start. When he did, the junior lifted his drum sticks with confidence and played almost flawlessly.

He was among hundreds of middle and high school students from 31 school corporations around the state to take part in the district Indiana State School Music Association’s wind, percussion and string competition.

The instrumental portion of the state competition was conducted at Doe Creek Middle School Saturday, when students from several Hancock County schools competed to advance to state finals.

Students showcased their talents by competing against each other during solo and ensemble performances. The top students, who earned a gold rating, will advance to state finals later this month.

To be successful, he had to be confident, Evan said.

“You really have to get in the right mindset to do this,” Evan said. “If you go in thinking you might mess up, you will.”

Students at Doe Creek Middle School spent months preparing solo and ensemble pieces for Saturday’s competition, said Natalie Fancher, band teacher at Doe Creek Middle School.

The students were judged by professional musicians who rated them on how well they played their notes in nine different musical categories.

“It’s kind of like golf; the kids want to get the lowest score possible,” Fancher said. “A nine would be a perfect score.”

Greenfield-Central High School’s Aurora Needy, a freshman flute player, played in an ensemble with three other students. Playing in the competition is fun and exciting, she said, but there also is a lot of pressure to do well, she said.

“It helps you get better and learn to get along with others if you’re a part of a group,” Aurora said.

New Palestine High School band director Shawn Humphries said judges in the competition do a good job giving students constructive feedback that aims to help them improve. It also encourages students to put in the effort needed to do well.

“The kids have ownership to do the research and prepare for doting the Is and crossing the Ts in getting ready for this,” Humphries said.

Gavin Stamper, a Mt. Vernon High School junior, played the french horn as part of a quartet. He enjoys performing in the competition, he said. Even though he’s participated in it for a number of years, the pressure doesn’t wane, he said.

“We’ve made it to state for each of the past several years that I’ve been a part of this, so no pressure,” Stamper said with a laugh.

Marilyn Vazquez’s daughter, Elizabeth Gauthier, an eighth-grader at Doe Creek Middle School, has been playing flute for several years. Vazquez said participating in the district contest gives young musicians like her daughter the opportunity to develop their musical talents and bond with other musicians. Vazquez is thrilled her daughter and others are developing a passion for the arts.

“She works hard and practices playing the flute every day with her friends,” Vazquez said. “Sports are good, and she plays them, but I like that she is developing a love for the music,” Vazquez said.

The vocal and piano segment of the district competition for county students takes place Saturday at Doe Creek Middle School.

Coming up

Indiana State School Music Association events:  

Vocal and piano district solo and ensembles will be held for county students on Saturday at Doe Creek Middle School. 

The state competition for vocal and piano solo and ensemble performances will be Feb. 20. The location has yet to be decided.

State finals for wind, percussion and string solo and ensembles will be held Feb. 27. Location to be decided.

For individual results from last weekend’s wind, percussion and string competition, contact your child’s band director.

Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or