Grace Gum goes all the way in All-State


Nicole Rooney

SHOWING OFF HER INSTRUMENT: Senior Grace Gum smiles for the camera. Gum has made it into the All-State orchestra in all her four years of high school, and is the first Bowie student to accomplish this feat since 2018.

Nicole Rooney, Staff Writer

Senior Grace Gum steps on stage. With sweaty palms and shaky legs, she prepares for a nerve-wracking matter of minutes. Thoughts of doubt run through her head, but she sees through them.
With a make-or-break performance, as a fourth-year All-State competitor, the nerves don’t go away for Gum.
“Unfortunately, I still get very nervous,” Gum said. “Having one shot to share what you’ve spent dozens of hours perfecting puts you in a very vulnerable position, as you want to prove yourself.“
To qualify for All-State, you play six excerpts at an in-person audition. From there, in one shot, a sound engineer records your performance, and you are judged based on that.
“The audition is terrifying,” Gum said. “The stakes feel so high that I always shake and get sweaty hands. I normally sleep all day after the audition after coming down from the adrenaline rush.
With all of the different factors that come with competing, nerves will always be there. Luckily Gum has found coping mechanisms to calm them.
“I think the best way to avoid being nervous is to show up prepared,” Gum said. “I don’t consider myself ready to perform a piece until I have it completely memorized, regardless of whether or not I have to play the piece by memory in the actual performance. By showing up very prepared I can play with confidence, knowing that I am absolutely capable of playing everything well and that I’ve done my job. If you haven’t done your due diligence and practiced enough, you deserve to be nervous.”
Gum has been an All-State finalist for all four years of high school. This has given her opportunities in and outside of school.
“It’s been a very rewarding experience, as it’s shown me that I can achieve any goal I set if I work hard enough,” Gum said. “Getting into a TMEA All-State ensemble means that you are chosen to attend a week-long convention in San Antonio, where you perform with many of the most talented young musicians in Texas. This week is always extremely inspiring and fun, as you get to hang out with like-minded people that you otherwise never would have met.”
Gum has received lots of recognition for her winnings and work ethic. Along with recognition from programs, Gum has received recognition from peers because of her hard work and dedication.
“Grace Gum is an incredibly dedicated student and worker from what I’ve seen, she always gets work done by the deadline and the work is always in stellar condition,” senior Rauno Meneses-Halmari said. “She doesn’t need help from others to get things done as is able to generate a much better product alone than most people can in groups”
Although Gum has been in orchestra all through high school, her journey with music has lasted longer than four years.
“I always wanted to play violin as a kid, but my parents insisted that I play the piano, which I played from age eight to 14,” Gum said. “When sixth grade rolled around, I signed up for orchestra and decided that I would play the violin. Shortly after, however, I met some stern professional musicians who told me that, being 11, I was ‘too old’ to pick the violin, and that I should choose the less competitive viola.”
Students find ways to express themselves in many different ways through programs and other extracurriculars, and orchestra is not just a fun hobby for Gum, but a way of expressing herself.
“Playing in an ensemble is extremely cathartic. I get to play my heart out during pieces that speak to my soul,” Gum said. “Playing and listening to great classical music conjures so much imagery and emotion in me, and can transport you to different places and times.”
With her hard work ethic, Gum has been able to inspire others and make them feel comfortable around her.
“I’ve played a role as a friend who is also aiming at the same goal of improving as a musician, but I wasn’t even able to compete with how well she placed at events like All-State until recently,” Meneses-Halmari said. “So maybe there was some unspoken friendly competition along the way, in the sense of pushing one another to do better. Something I’ve enjoyed about working with Grace is her overall skill in different fields. It’s enjoyable to work with someone who is much more than competent in the subject at hand.”
Gum has not only inspired her classmates but has also made so many others proud such as her orchestra director.
“Grace is a joy to work with,” orchestra director Joseph Smith said. “I never have to be worried about lack of preparation, and she is one of the most polite and respectful students I have ever taught. Gums talent with music has lasted all through high school and she does not plan on ending her journey here. I have enjoyed seeing her blossom into an incredible musician.”
For Gum, music is something she want to continue, but maybe not as a future career.
“I’m not going to major in music in college, but I plan to be in UT’s chamber music program and in one of their orchestras,” Gum said. “I don’t want to diminish my love of music by depending on it for my income. No matter what career I go into I’ll still be a musician, and plan on playing forever.”
Although Gum is choosing not to major in music while in college, her director believes that she has the ability to do whatever she wants to with her talent.
“Grace has all the options in the world – she could be a professional musician, or really anything else she might want to be,” Smith said. ”Grace is one of the hardest working people I know. She is consistently prepared, bringing not only polished work to the table, but also with ideas for continued growth.”
Throughout all of the ups and downs in orchestra Gum has learned a few things that she will carry on in the future.
“Being in orchestra and playing the viola for the last six years has taught me that I’m capable of learning anything,” Gum said. “It has also taught me to be patient when it comes to seeing progress, as it takes several years of practice until you’re able to play an instrument well.”