More than 2,000 students across the state tried out for a spot in All State musical performing groups — and two Pequot Lakes students made the cut.
Bridget Erickson, on percussion, and Mike Newton, on euphonium, are part of the All State Symphonic Band, which includes the best high school musicians in the state.
They traveled to Duluth in August for a weeklong music camp to practice and perform with the All State Symphonic Band and will travel to the Twin Cities in February to once again practice and perform.
Their band teacher, Mike Sommerness, said All State is a big achievement.
“It’s kind of like going to state in any other sport on an individual level,” he said. “They’re both very good musicians, and it’s a pretty prestigious thing to get into.”
Both seniors, Erickson and Newton have been in band for several years. Erickson had 11 years of piano lessons before joining the Pequot Lakes band as a percussion player.
Newton played guitar before joining band, but admitted his inclinations for joining band weren’t entirely based on his passion for music.
“I thought (band) would be just another easy class, but it ended up being my favorite one,” Newton said.
Newton described the week he spent in Duluth with All State as “probably the best week of my life.”
The two described rehearsing for eight hours a day — six hours with the full band and two hours in sectionals. For Erickson, the best part was “being in a room of people who love music.”
“There, everyone was more focused,” Erickson said. “They’re so into it.”
Sommerness said getting together with musicians who work as hard as they do and play at the same level is a unique situation.
“When you play with someone of a high caliber it’s an amazing moment,” he said.
The most challenging part of the experience, Erickson and Newton agreed, was auditioning. It was Erickson’s second time auditioning.
“I thought I bombed,” she said. She was wrong.
On their first day in Duluth rehearsals they auditioned for chair positions. Newton is second chair of four for the euphonium. Erickson said chairs aren’t named for percussion.
Erickson said her favorite percussion instruments are mallet instruments, including the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone and bells. She plays a variety at All State.
The two students are also in the Pequot Lakes High School Jazz Band, which meets two days a week before school, and pep band. Erickson’s piano skills come in handy in jazz band. Newton plays trombone for jazz band and trumpet for pep band.
Both students plan to pursue music majors in college. Newton plans to major in music education, while Erickson is thinking of a music performance major.
Sommerness said participation in All State should help them along those paths.
“As far as post-secondary education goes, colleges will look for students who have succeeded at state tournaments, and it’s no different in music,” he said. “It’s opened a lot of doors already.
“They are both very self-motivated students, and they have high expectations of themselves. And I think that’s the quality that I’ve seen is necessary to get into All State. They’re both very unique, cool people,” he said.