Two Knights to perform with All-State Band

Photo submitted to Times Observer Eisenhower band members Jesse Honsberger (left) and Anna Alcorn will represent the school at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association All-State Band Festival April 19 through 22.

Pennsylvania high school students who excel in instrumental music can show their expertise at music festivals.

Two Eisenhower students — Anna Alcorn and Jesse Honsberger — have reached the pinnacle of the state’s events.

At the lowest level are the district festivals. There are 12 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) districts.

About 160 musicians from Warren, Cameron, Crawford, Elk, Erie, McKean, and Potter counties are selected for the District 2 festival. Half of the students from that festival join up with half from the District 3 festival — six more counties — to make up the Region II band.

One in six students who make it to regional band will be selected for the All-State Concert Band. Only the top 160 musicians in the state make it.

At each level, students audition to determine where they will be seated — and if they will move on. For All-State Band, the students received music on Saturday, March 25, and will audition virtually on Tuesday, April 4.

Senior trumpet player Anna Alcorn and junior flute player Jesse Honsberger will represent Eisenhower and Warren County at the festival to be held April 19 through 22 at the Kalahari Resort in the Poconos.

“Anna and Jesse worked very hard to earn their spots at the state level,” Eisenhower Band Director Mark Napolitan said. “The extra hours practicing on their own and finding time in their busy student schedules to get extra help during the day paid off.”

Both students took up their instruments in fourth grade.

Several factors have led them along the path to music excellence.

“Practicing – recently it’s been most every day,” Honsberger said.

“We have a great director,” he said.

“Mr. Napolitan told me to practice so much that eventually I did it,” Alcorn said. “Being in marching band from a young age, I put pressure on myself to learn so I didn’t look bad in front of the older kids.”

“This is a very exciting moment for Anna, Jesse, and the Eisenhower music program,” Napolitan said. “I have had students qualify for the state band in the past, but to have two students from our rural school make it at the same time does not happen very often.”

The festivals are quite different from the daily band experiences in school.

“It’s a big shock,” Alcorn said. “You don’t get to play with that many people and that big a sound.”

There are four flutes and a total of about 35 musicians in the combined senior and junior high bands at Eisenhower, Honsberger said. From that to about 16 flutes and 160 total members is quite a change — “the sheer all-encompassing sound of everyone around.”

Large bands include more instruments and parts and can play a greater assortment of music. “The parts contrast in a way that you don’t get in a smaller group,” he said.

Band has been a positive experience for both Alcorn — nine years — and Honsberger — eight.

“It’s something I enjoy here and at home,” Honsberger said. “It’s a lot of fun. The people… everything abut it.”

“Band to me is the one place I can go in school and be myself,” Alcorn said. “It’s nice being able to go from being stressed in all my other classes and relaxing and knowing what’s going to happen.”

She describes the band as a family. “I’ve met so many people,” she said. “They’ve seen the good and the bad.”

“We congratulate the student musicians that have been selected to be part of the 2023 PMEA All-State Festival,” PMEA President and Octorara Area School District Music Educator Scott Cullen said. “Coming together for a unique performance experience like the PMEA All-State Festival is a top honor for student musicians in Pennsylvania. What these students can do as an ensemble in a few short days and hours together is truly remarkable.”

For those who do not plan to travel to the Poconos for the festival, there will be opportunities to see and hear Alcorn, Honsberger, and the band in action at the spring concert on April 27, at the Memorial Day ceremony at Pine Grove Cemetery. Honsberger will perform with the band at graduation and Alcorn will be part of the Summer Music School Pops at the Fountain concert.


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