To be honest, I heard Will play when he was in 9th grade, and it didn’t occur to me back then that his future path would lead him in a musical direction. Yet, as we see time and again, every child’s story is moving toward some unwritten and often unpredictable twist in the plot.
In his own words:
“I started All-City Middle School Band in sixth grade in the back of the third clarinets. I had no idea what I was doing then, but today I play first clarinet in the All-City Orchestra and Concert Band, and tenor sax in the All-City Jazz Band. I play in every ensemble I can. It’s been a long journey to where I am now.”
One milestone led to another, and now that he is about to graduate from CAPA, Will is getting ready to ‘pay it forward’. In just a few months he’ll begin studying music education at Temple University’s Boyer School of Music and Dance.
Looking back, I can now reveal the secret All City survive guide! If you want to advance from the back of your section to first chair, then follow these steps:
The first thing you need to do is learn how to practice. I used to play whatever… for about 15 minutes a day, until I realized I was reinforcing bad habits. If you want to improve, you must play scales, long tones, and practice with a metronome. That might seem exhausting and boring, but you get used to it after about three days, and the results are outstanding!
The second thing you need is to find a good teacher that suits you. I’ve had 5 different teachers over the last 3 years. At first I had someone who didn’t speak the same language, then someone who didn’t play the same instrument. Joining All-City enabled me to take lessons with a member of the Philadelphia orchestra, but those lessons ended too soon. I finally found the right person for me. Sean Bailey is a masters student at Temple, and one of the greatest musicians I know.
The third thing you need to do is to begin acting like a good musician. That means more than playing well. You need to show up to rehearsals on time, be friendly to others in your section, and just be a good human being. Playing music is about enjoying yourself and making connections to other talented people. If you contribute to the best of your ability, then good things will come your way.
When I was a sophomore, for example, I had not yet advanced much on the saxophone. But I showed that I was hard working and enthusiastic about the music. That effort landed me in the All City Jazz Band.
As William’s future is coming into focus, his story is a reminder that becoming a musician isn’t about where your journey begins. It is about the people you meet, the ones you seek out, and the choices you make along the way.
I love playing in an orchestra and bringing art to life. Exploring the world through music makes me happy. If you find happiness through something else, then do that. Music may not be for everyone, but if you love it, then never stop.
Will’s All City formula may not be a secret, yet we all need to learn it for ourselves:
Aspiration+Mentorship+Persistence = Success