Rother plucks her way to first chair in TMEA Region 18


Austin Ikard

FOCUSED ON THE NOTES: Senior Hannah Rother practices music excerpts for the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Region orchestra auditions. Rother earned a spot to participate in the All-State auditions later in the school year.

Sydney Crum, Staff Writer

Hannah Rother could barely take the anticipation. She nervously flipped over the sticker that corresponded to the audition order and double checked her number.

Finally. She was up next.

Rother, a senior, plays harp in the Bowie orchestra and is one student who participated in The Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Region 18 Orchestra audition. This audition is an annual event open to students in the surrounding Austin area who want to become a part of the Austin regional orchestra, which performs at the AISD Performing Arts Center (PAC).

“[The auditions are] usually stressful,” Rother said. “You come up to the front and they give you a sticker with your number on it because they can’t call you by your name. The judges are behind a screen so they can’t see you and you can’t see them. It’s just the other people with you who are also auditioning from the same region.”

This year, Rother tried out with pieces for both the harp and piano sections. After practicing since the end of last school year, all of her hard work paid off when she was named first chair out of all the other harps in the district.

“Sophomore year, I also made the Region orchestra, which was really fun,” Rother said. “[This year], I started practicing around the beginning of the summer. I practiced for about an hour every day just by playing the audition pieces.”

Rother has been playing the harp for a while now after first discovering her interest for it at the end of middle school.

“I’ve been playing harp for about three and a half years,” Rother said. “There was a harp in my middle school and I was only there for the last two months of eighth grade, but just the opportunity of having a harp was good to be able to start doing it.”

Orchestra director Joseph Smith considers the competition to be one of the most important events of the year for his students. The auditions determine whether or not you get the opportunity to play in the regional orchestra and continue on to compete for a spot in the prestigious All-State orchestra.

¨It’s kind of the biggest deal out of the year for most students in the AISD orchestra program,” Smith said. “It takes hours and hours of practice away from everyone being really disciplined all summer long just to get into this orchestra that only ends up lasting for three days.”

Students have been participating in this event for many years and around six to ten Bowie students usually compete at the event. Those that got involved this year rehearsed their audition pieces during class and at home in the months leading up to the recital.

“I help my students if they want help, but it’s mostly their individual practice time,” Smith said. “They have to really commit to doing it by taking private lessons or just practicing on their own. It’s a very difficult thing for them to find time to do.”

Sophomore Ashira Fronk, who also plays the harp in the Bowie orchestra, was one source of support for Rother during the audition process.

“I don’t play with Hannah very often in school because she’s in a different orchestra than I am,” Fronk said. “But we like to help each other with auditions and other harp problems like restringing. Hannah and I are both part of a Girl Scout harp ensemble that we practice with every week, so I still get to play with her outside of school.”

The days before the auditions are stressful for everyone competing.

“In the days leading up to the auditions, everyone who’s auditioning plays in front of everyone else in the class,” Fronk said. “It’s nerve-wracking.”

After waiting in anticipation, finding out the results of the competition is an exciting moment for both the orchestra students and teachers.

“I was so happy when Hannah got first chair because she’s a senior and she thought she didn’t do very well and ended up getting first chair,” Smith said. “I’m just so proud of all of my students. I’m excited to see them all performing together again very soon.”

The hours of practice and hard work aren’t over quite yet. Rother will continue on to compete in the All-State orchestra auditions later this school year in an attempt to be a part of the orchestra that performs at a Texas convention.

“There’s a separate audition day for All-State,” Rother said. “I really hope I get in. I’m very excited for the All-State convention.”

Through her dedication and hard work, Rother has learned a lot from this experience. Practice and support from friends and teachers has helped her reach her goal of becoming a part of the Region orchestra.

“You just have to play your best and not worry about what everyone else is doing because performance anxiety keeps you from doing well,” Rother said. “[This experience] has taught me that if I work hard I can achieve my goals.”