Five BHS students selected for All-State music

Charlie Wonka, right, is one of five Buffalo High School students accepted into All-State Honor groups. The honor groups, which will also feature BHS students LaCee Bennett, Rowan Heil, Sage Palser and Olivia Rhoads  will perform in Gillette on Jan. 20 and 21.

Buffalo High School senior LaCee Bennett is no stranger to the Wyoming All-State Honor Orchestra, having been accepted to it in each of her first three years of high school.

Still, the nerves come every year when recording time arrives.

“You tell yourself to do your best and whatever happens, happens,” Bennett said. “But at the same time, I would have been really bummed if I did not make all-state for the first time during my senior year. You definitely have to take a lot of deep breaths, try to keep your blood pressure down and not psych yourself out, because if you do, you will miss notes.”

But Bennett shouldn’t have worried. Her streak continued last month when she learned that she had been accepted to the all-state orchestra for the fourth year.

Bennett joins four other BHS students in the honor groups this year. Freshman Charlie Wonka, a baritone, will join senior Rowan Heil, a soprano, and junior Sage Palser, an alto, in the All-State Honor Choir during a performance in Gillette in January. Bennett will play French horn in the All-State Concert Band, while sophomore Olivia Rhoads will perform percussion in the All-State Orchestra. The new year will mark Wonka’s and Rhoads’ first performances with the all-state music groups. This will be Palser’s second, Heil’s third and Bennett’s fourth.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Wonka said. ”I’m pretty excited for the new opportunity.”

To be accepted to all-state, the students had to go through an arduous audition process. They make a recording of themselves, which includes two prepared excerpts, two scales they have to play from memory and a sight-reading piece. And each student only has one chance to get it right, which means pressure is high and nerves are on edge even before the recording starts.

 “You need to be careful about overpracticing,” Palser said. “At some point, it just becomes counterproductive.”

Adding to the pressure was the short rehearsal time. Most of the students had less than a month to rehearse because many of them didn’t start practicing until the end of marching band season in October, Rhoads said.

“I know we were all kind of scrambling to get all that learned,” Rhoads said.

In the end, each student just had to practice hard and hope that their best was enough when recording day came, Bennett said.

“I felt like this audition was the best I could have played, and that’s enough for me,” Bennett said. “By all means, I was not perfect, but it was the best I could do.”

The hard work of auditioning might be over, but there is more work on the horizon. The students are expecting their music within the next few weeks, and then it’s off to practice before the concert in mid-January.

Despite the extra effort to prepare for the concert, all five students said they were excited to be accepted into all-state music groups this year. For Rhoads and Wonka, all-state will provide a unique new experience. For Palser, Heil and Bennett, it will provide another opportunity to continue growing and maturing as musicians.

“It will be cool to see the friends I’ve made over the past few years,” Heil said. “It is just rewarding to be a part of it.”

Bennett agreed.

“This is my last all-state so I just want to take the time to appreciate where my hard work has taken me,” Bennett said. “I just want to let this moment resonate in my soul and say ‘This is nice.’”

The Wyoming All-State music honor groups will perform at Thunder Basin High School in Gillette on Jan. 19-21.

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