Four local students, three high-schoolers and one middle school student, took part in an All-State Band weekend at the end of February that consisted of two days of lengthy rehearsals and culminated with concert performances.
Statesboro High School band students Eric Kollars, Ben Lloyd and Ben Crawford and Langston Chapel Middle School band student Robert Lloyd were selected for the Georgia Music Educators Association All-State Band after extensive auditions. All-State is the highest honor a Georgia band student can receive.
Students first audition by districts all across the state, playing major scales from memory and a short prepared piece. Students are then given a new selection of music to look at for approximately one minute. Following that initial glance, the student sight-reads and plays the selection solo.
Those who score high enough move onto the next level of competition, the state level. At the state level, the students play two prepared pieces and must sight-read two selections.
Crawford, an 11th-grade French horn player, was selected for All-State orchestra; Kollars, for the second year in a row, was selected as first chair percussionist for the 11th/12th grade All-State Band; and Ben Lloyd, a senior and French horn player, was chosen for first chair in another 11th/12th grade All-State Band.
All three boys spoke highly of their conductors and considered it an honor to be under their tutelage. They also realized the educational value of their experience.
"I certainly grew as a musician due to the different setting," Crawford said.
Even though instrumentalists selected for All-State are already exceptionally talented, students have the opportunity to advance musically.
"The pieces were much more difficult than the music I've played before," Kollars said. "My favorite parts of All-State were the opportunities to learn very challenging music and play with the best players in all of Georgia."
Lee Collins is in his second year of leading the SHS band and spent 13 years as Tattnall County High School band director. Collins points out that in addition to rehearsing for 90 minutes a day, five days a week for band class, to come this far, the students spend hours practicing on their instruments at home and have studied outside of the school.
Equally ecstatic about the students' accomplishments, Langston Chapel Middle School band director Holly Lloyd said, "This is a lot of students to make All-State from a rural area, especially first chair."
And as if that weren't enough of an honor and distinction, of the four students selected, two are siblings.
Robert Lloyd, 12, is the brother of Ben; both are Holly Lloyd's sons. Robert was chosen as a second chair percussionist for the Middle School All-State Band.
"We've never had a seventh-grader make All-State Band," she said. "All-State was an amazing experience for all the students involved."
She added, speaking as a mom: "My husband and I were very proud of our sons. I was so happy they were able to experience music-making at such a high level. It was the memory of a lifetime."
Her boys echoed her sentiments.
"My conductor, Michael Sweeney, is a wonderful composer and arranger, and it was a joy to be under his direction in a band," Robert Lloyd said. "All the players (in All-State) were great, and it seemed as though everybody was musically connected."
Ben Lloyd recognized the privilege of participating in All-State Band during his final year of high school.
"Playing with such incredible musicians highlighted my All-State weekend," he said.
And likely voicing the opinion of all of the students performing that weekend, Ben added: "This experience made me realize the importance of music's presence in my life."