SHERIDAN — As most students sleepily walk through the front doors of Sheridan High School on any given weekday morning, a select group of freshmen to seniors are already wide awake practicing for a statewide debut of their musical talent. All-State choir, band and orchestra students endure rigorous schedules before and after being selected to join other honorees throughout the state in their respective categories.
Many of the students participate in two or all three musical offerings at SHS but must choose which route to take when flexing their musical muscles for the All-State judges.
At 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday, “The Freshmen Four” — Branton Williams, Zach Allen, Zane Myers and Madisyn Danforth — laugh with each other about the time put into practicing for All-State performances.
The four are all juniors but choir teacher Ashley Lecholat deemed them their group name, as all four of them have made it to All-State choir since their freshman year of high school.
On top of a 40-hour “work week” attending class and completing classwork, the musicians put in another 30 to 40 hours outside of class time on the tough technical intricacies of music chosen for All-State.
Myers said one of the toughest aspects is learning a new language alongside the music. In addition to working on All-State music, the four are involved in other music classes, the school musical, sports and clubs. The music teachers set before-school practices to cater to the busy schedules of the multi-activity students.
Senior David Wold juggles a similarly busy schedule, playing saxophone in the jazz band, oboe in the orchestra and band, and piano on the side. After a broken back and wrist earlier this year, Wold worked extra hard to earn second chair in All-State band — a demotion he credits to his lost time because of the injuries and a strong first chair. Wold patiently but quickly explained his rehearsal hours, all while glancing back at the piano knowing his practicing minutes were dwindling quickly before the first school bell rang. To earn an honor as high as an All-State ranking in Wyoming, Wold said playing and practicing has to be fun.
“It’s hard for me to really put to words where (my motivation comes from),” Wold said. “I think you really have to like the music; you have to enjoy music.”
Wold said that’s one point where potential musicians drop off in pursuing anything further. Many start with piano lessons to simplified pop songs or unrelatable works. To Wold, understanding and appreciating the classical techniques and musical stories made it fun and desirable for him to continue.
“You’re never going to get the appreciation, especially with classical music,” Wold said. “It can be really boring, but once you get involved in it and when you’re playing, it’s just so much different than listening to it. You just have to love the music.”
For these students, a love for the music shows in the hours they dedicate toward the task among a host of other options presented as Sheridan Broncs. Their teachers see their dedication and rising pressure of tryouts, too.
“The pressure is unbelievable and it’s incredible,” orchestra teacher Razmick Sarkissian said. “Over the years, we’ve had great students, hard performers, not make it because of the stress level or whatever, but we try to accommodate each student and eliminate some of those stresses.”
Despite the stress, long hours and packed schedules, the students seem to love the work and not mind the grind on the way to a high honor.
“You guys sound like you’re ready to go on a bus to Gillette,” Lecholat said Thursday before the trip.
The Sheridan students traveled to Thunder Basin High School in Gillette Sunday, and Lecholat knew well before the trip they were ready to represent SHS.