By: Jen Russon
Over 3,000 student musicians audition for the Florida All-State Honor Band each year, with only a select few recognized for the exceptional playing of a concert instrument.
This year, two of them attend Coral Springs Charter School: Conor Balem, a tuba player, and Jonah Pool, who plays the trombone.
Balem, age 17, said he had been selected before to perform in honor bands and that All-State is his favorite.
“Getting selected in your senior year is significant because that’s when competing is at its most strenuous. After six years of playing tuba, I’m going off to college on a high note,” said Balem.
Pool, also 17-years-old, said the many hours of practicing during the pandemic brought a comforting sense of routine to his days.
“2020 has been strange, but having the distraction of practicing has made it easier, I think. Preparing for All-State put me on a schedule,” said Pool.
Florida All-State Band auditions were conducted virtually this year and were similar to in-person try-outs of years past, except without the site reading.
Auditions were held in September, with band directors across district 15 in Broward County schools finding out which, if any, of their students were selected this year.
Marisa Fernandez, director of bands at Coral Springs Charter School, said she has worked with Balem and Pool for almost six years.
“I am extremely proud of them and how hard they’ve worked this year despite all of the challenges they’ve faced due to the pandemic,” she said.
Fernandez described the two friends as hard-working students, who were accepted to All-State based on her recommendation, as well as receiving superior ratings for their playing in state competitions over the years.
“Both of them (Balem and Pool), incidentally, qualified for state Solo and Ensemble last school year, which was also canceled due to the pandemic,” said Fernandez.
Both boys and their parents told Coral Springs Talk they were excited about the All-State Band’s annual concert.
In a typical year, All-State, along with the FMEA music educators’ conference, would be held in Tampa in January over four days; however, because of COVID-19 restrictions, it will be done virtually.
The district Balem and Pool are part of, District 15, has not yet informed students which chair number they earned following their September auditions.
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- Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.
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