HHS senior picked for national band

Courtesy photo<p>Allison Gray went through a multi-step auditioning process that began last fall. She was informed of her selection earlier this month.

Allison Gray is about to embark on a trip that few high school students in the nation have the privilege to make.

The Hillsboro High School senior will be leaving Oct. 25 to play her French horn in the All-National Band at the National Association for Music Edu?ca?tors conference Oct. 28 in Nashville, Tenn.

The performance will take place on the world-famous Grand Ole Opry House stage, known as the ?home of American music.?

Gray will perform alongside some 150 instrumentalists from almost every state in the country, all of whom were selected through an extensive auditioning process.

Gray first had to audition for the South Central Kansas Music Educators Associa?tion District Honor Band last November. She was selected to perform with the orchestra in December.

She then traveled to Salina in January to audition for the KMEA All-State ensembles, and was a member of the All-State Band that performed at the KMEA conference in February.

As a result of her selection to the All-State Band, Gray was eligible to audition for the National Ensembles. She had to record a solo and send it to a panel of NAfME judges, who listened to recordings submitted from across the U.S. to choose the best of the best.

?At no level do the judges even know who the students are or where they are from, so it is their musicianship that is being judged,? said Bruce Major, HHS band instructor. ?Winning a spot in the All-National Band is something very few can achieve.?

Gray said she decided to send in the recording almost on a lark.

?We made the tape because I thought it would be a good experience for me because I didn?t really expect to be selected,? she said.

?It would be good for future entries. If I ever needed to record anything else, I would know how to do it. It was kind of a practice run more than anything else.?

Gray said she waited several weeks to hear from the NAfME panel of judges.

?I found out through email,? she said. ?I looked at the email and it said ?congratulations.? I was like freaked out.?

According to Major, Allison has earned the honor.

?Allison is a gifted musician, but talent alone would not have allowed her to be part of the All-National Band,? Major said. ?She has worked extremely hard to develop her talent, taking private lessons and practicing on her own. She makes a great contribution to the band every time she picks up her horn.?

Gray, daughter of Del and Debbie Gray, began playing the French horn in fifth grade.

?My mom played French horn and my brother had started it in middle school but didn?t follow through with it,? she said about her choice of instrument.

?I didn?t want to play the flute or the clarinet like all the girls usually do,? she added. ?Because my mom played the French horn, I thought I?d give it a shot. As I grew up, I appreciated it more.?

To augment the instruction she received in school, Gray has been taking private lessons Shana Stepanek of Hillsboro for the past four years.

?I could never have been anywhere near the level I am now without her,? Gray said. ?There?s a large impact there. Even my parents can tell my level of playing has gone up every year.?

To help cover the expense of her upcoming trip?at least $650, not counting transportation?Gray set up a CrowdSource funding page online. The link is: National Honor Band Fundraiser | Indiegogo.

?Money was a factor I definitely thought about when we were deciding whether I was going to go not,? she said. ?I am getting some money from the (HHS) band, which I just found out. It will definitely help.?

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