ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
As an incoming freshman, Kelli Just had a choice to put down her flute after four years in band or continue with a program that was struggling.
She decided to participate in high-school band. Today, the senior is a leader for a large group of young band members.
“She is outstanding in many ways,” said Gregg Walker, Hillsboro High School band director, who began building the band program during Just’s freshman year.
“In many ways, she has been a good example for everyone,” Walker said. “She has been in the band and stuck with it in spite of the process we’ve gone through. It’s been a growing process. And I’ve always said that those kids in that position were brave and courageous because it wasn’t easy to do that.”
Just was elected drum major this year and has quietly developed her skills as a musician in the HHS band program.
“She is a great musician and a fine flutist,” Walker said. “And she’s a great girl.”
Just’s father, Darrel, played the trumpet in high school and possibly paved the way for his daughter’s choice of picking up the flute the summer before fifth grade.
“I always wanted to play the flute because I thought it was pretty,” Just said.
Although she’s not sure if she could say music runs in the family, Just said her father’s sister is a talented trumpet player and is married to the vocal director at Tabor College.
“They’re a very musical family,” she said. “I’ve always really liked music.”
In addition to playing the flute, she plays the piano and keyboard, and sings in the HHS choir program.
Faced with the decision of continuing in the band program in high school, Just was encouraged by a visit from Walker when he spoke to her eighth-grade class four year ago.
“I knew him from that, and I thought he was a really nice guy,” Just said. “So I thought I’d give him a try. He turned out to be a really good teacher, and I’ve enjoyed him.”
During her freshman and sophomore years, she prepared solos for contest. Her freshman year, she garnered a “I” at state.
“The second year, I blanked out during my song and got a ‘II,’ so I was disappointed,” Just said.
She said she stopped taking solos to state because of that experience.
“And it’s a lot of work to take a solo, and I’m busy.”
Instead of a solo, Just joined with two other flutists last year for a trio.
“I felt like I should do something because I still liked to play,” she said.
In April, the flute trio earned a “I” at the state contest in McPherson. This year, Just will be going to league in March with a trio of two flutes and a clarinet.
“It’s three seniors in the group, so we all have good experience,” Just said. “Hopefully, if we start getting on that and start working on it, we can do pretty well.”
In addition to band practice three times a week, students have the opportunity to work with Walker for private lessons during school hours or after school.
“Probably, when it comes to the trio, I’ll be going to lessons for that for awhile,” Just said about preparing for contest.
The band program at HHS offers pep-band, concert-band and jazz-band opportunities. Just opted not to participate in jazz band.
“Unless you’re in sports, you’re always in pep band,” Just said. “I was drum major during football, so I didn’t play much during that season. Now, during pep band at basketball, I play the keyboard.”
Her list of activities her senior year includes choir, Spirit-N- Celebration, forensics, yearbook staff and National Honor Society.
She was Anna, one of the leads in the fall musical “The King and I” and will be in the spring play.
A member of the tennis team throughout high school, Just also finds time to work part-time. She was employed last summer as an office assistant at the Hillsboro Free Press and is currently working 15 hours a week at Dale’s Supermarket in Hillsboro.
Participating in an independent study, Just chose to focus on graphic design this year. At this time, that’s the subject she plans to major in as she enters Tabor College next fall. She also plans to audition for the band.
“It’s a new level of playing abilities,” Just said. “When you go to college, it’s just people who really want to be in band because it takes so much more of your time. So people there, they’ll be better players, and interesting and fun to play with.”
Just said the opportunity to play in the band program has broadened her horizons as a high-school student.
“It’s just something more that you have-to have musical ability-and to work with that,” she said. “I think it’s a really good thing to have-not to just focus on academics but to have more.”
A student with a positive attitude, Just also described herself as sociable.
“I like to be around people,” she said. “In band, you have to work with so many different people. As one of the few older (band students), people look to me to see how I’m going to react to certain things.”
When they do look up to her, she said she wants to encourage underclassmen to choose band as part of their high-school education.
“If you think it’s your thing to do, you should definitely give it a try,” Just said.
“It’s a good experience-to see what you can do and how you can work with others. It gives you more things to do other than just being in sports and academics. You can show yourself in another light.”