The Colorado Bandmasters Association chose five Moffat County High School students for All-State Band. The students traveled to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley in March. From left are Kyra McClellan, Kim Hill, Karen Bolton, Sarah Bolton and Keath Fenton.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

The Colorado Bandmasters Association chose five Moffat County High School students for All-State Band. The students traveled to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley in March. From left are Kyra McClellan, Kim Hill, Karen Bolton, Sarah Bolton and Keath Fenton.

MCHS students make All-State, look to keep improving

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— For Moffat County High School students in the band program, they are only as good or as talented as the person sitting next to them.

Luckily, those sitting beside them are very good.

Sophomores Kim Hill, Kyra McClellan and Karen Bolton, junior Keath Fenton and senior Sarah Bolton were selected to play in the March 4 All-State Band Festival at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and they will participate in the Jazz Festival in Grand Junction next week.

"Music is my life," Hill said. "It's cool to be in the band and be in a room with all these people who share the same dreams and desires as you."

For flutist Hill, 16, joining the band was an easy choice.

"I've been playing since I was five," she said. "I figured I should join the band - I've been playing for most of my life."

Sarah Bolton, 17, who is the daughter of band director John Bolton and sister of Karen, has been playing the clarinet since she was in the sixth grade. She also taught herself how to play the flute and saxophone.

"Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to play clarinet," she said. "Even when I was little, I could listen to music and pick out the clarinet. And I just fell in love."

Going to competitions has always helped Bolton get better.

"It's never been about showing up other schools," she said. "It's about pushing yourself to get better."

Each of the five students selected to play in the All-State Band have a different story about how they became involved in music.

"This is my fourth year. I played piano, but when I saw the clarinet, I said, 'I want to try one of those,'" McClellan said.

"I got a saxophone, and my dad suggested I join the band," Fenton said. "I did, and it's been fun.

"It's fun to play with people, and music is always fun to do."

Karen, 15, said the competition gives her motivation.

"I'm never really nervous when there is someone else there who's as good as me, or maybe even better," she said. "It pushes me to get better."

But, finding someone better than Karen with a bassoon in their hands is difficult.

"There aren't a whole lot of bassoon players out there," she said. "I'm usually happy when I find someone else who plays."

The judges give rankings with one being the best score.

"Last year, we had fours," she said. "This year we had three's, and we keep working toward ones for next year."

"We just keep on climbing that musical ladder," Fenton said.

Playing in the band is best when everyone participates.

"It's all friends in here," Sarah Bolton said. "And I like creating a moving art with the people I like."

McClellan said the students are connected by their love of music.

"We are learning together, and seeing how far the band has come," said McClellan, adding that the band gives her a chance to connect with people she wouldn't have otherwise. "And when we go to these competitions, you get to connect to the other musicians just by playing music with them."

John Bolton has seen the program change during his five years conducting the class.

"When I started, there were 28 students who were completely disenchanted with the program," he said. "It just wasn't happening when I first got here."

With help from Craig Intermediate School teacher Craig Smith, the program has been revitalized, Bolton said.

"It went from 28 to 60 students, and there's 80 for next year," he said. "It's just exploded."

Sarah said she has seen improvement during her four years in the program.

"I'm really proud of how far the entire group has come," Sarah said. "There's so much work involved, and since I was a freshman I've seen so much progress."

John Bolton said between 500 and 800 students tried out for the band, and 200 were selected.

"They really do skim the cream from the top," he said. "And for five students from Moffat County to make it is just historical."

But, Bolton credits his students' (and daughters') success with their hard work.

"I'm just a spectator," he said. "I pick out the tunes and help them after school.

"But, it's been a treat for me to be able to watch those five kids who are that good."

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