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Meet your All-State musicians. From left, alto saxophonist Emma Pendergrass, trumpeter Thomas Vieira, and baritone saxophonist Raymond Whittenberg. Photo by L. Farrell (click for larger version)
January 09, 2013 - After a break-through 2012 season which was capped with a record-setting performance at the Michigan State competition, four members of the Lake Orion High School Marching Dragons have been tapped to play for the All-State Band.

Your musical all-stars are seniors Emma Pendergrass on alto sax, Thomas Vieira on trumpet, Raymond Whittenberg, on baritone saxophone, and junior Ryan Stockhausen on clarinet. (Stockhausen declined to attend).

Pendergrass, Vieira, and Whittenberg head to the state music conference at Devoss Place in Grand Rapids on Jan. 19. Whittenberg enjoys the special distinction of selection into the All-State Jazz band.

The latest leg in these musicians' journey to the All-State band involved ten-minute auditions last October. Each musician prepared excerpts for performance and underwent extensive sight-reading exercises; of the thousands of band students from across the state these three were among the 100 to make the cut.

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"It represents a triumph for not just the student but for everyone who has helped that student along the way," Michael Steele said.

Not suprisingly, their success has been accompanied by years of sacrifice and diligence, prerequisites to make it to the All-State level. Each musician has spent years in private instruction, smaller ensembles, and hours and hours of practice.

Steele knows that musicians of this caliber are always looking to refine and expand their musical abilities. A chair in the All-State band is not only a feather in their caps; it also represents a chance to advance. Playing with the best in the state will make them into better musicians.

Since there are literally hundreds and thousands of choices a musican makes in the span of a performance, perfection is always out of reach, Steele said. Whenever a student plays a single note, she must consider fingering, the amount of air needed, how long it will be played, when to start, volume, intonation, the style of performing--and then make similar calculations for each successive measure of music.

" Let's face it, as a teacher I'll never get rich," Steele quipped, "but one of the biggest rewards of this job is when I see my students reach for something that's a big stretch and be successful."

The LOHS Marching Dragons continue to stretch the envelop. The honors won by Pendergrass, Vieira, and Whittenberg indicate a tradition of excellence continues in Orion.

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