Record number of band students earn All-State Band qualification


Laura Smith

A record-setting 12 band members earned spots in the TMEA All-State Band. They include (left to right) Blake Usleton, Lily Williams, Charles Neal, Maggie Bell, Tobin Brooks, Aryauna Thompson, John Flatt, Bella Haynes, Ian Hughes, Kate McKinney, Cory Robbins, and Meghan Brooks.

At 6:30 a.m., few things can excite a group of upwards of 30 high school students. However, the excitement in the air was nearly tangible as they anticipated the success the day could bring as the group headed to Levelland Jan. 12 to audition at the Texas Music Educators Association area audition for a chance to play with the best musicians in the state.

A school record-breaking 11 band members secured chairs in the small school All-State Band, along with one in the large school All-State Band. They will perform Feb. 16 at the TMEA state convention.

I have a nice sense of closure knowing I made it my senior year. It will be something really nice to look back on and a really great final memory.”

— Maggie Bell, 12

“Going into it, I figured we would have a pretty good day,” head band director Mike Sheffield said. “The directors even talked about how many we thought we were going to have. My best day in my tenure was to have seven advance. Mr. Hernandez thought we would have about five. When the results started rolling in and right off the bat we had three, I was rethinking my original estimate and knew it might go better than I originally thought.”

Sheffield said the high school’s previous record number of band students to advance to All-State was eight. This year, that record was met a time and a half.

“When we finished and we had a total of 12, I could not believe it,” Sheffield said. “I recounted three times. I didn’t figure we would have that many. I tried not to brag too loudly. I did, but I tried not to. It was totally beyond my comprehension we would have that many students perform at such a high level and secure so many spots. I was thrilled, but it blew me away. I still can’t believe it happened.”

Senior Maggie Bell said the small school audition process was completely different from what the band was used to, but the changes ultimately benefited the band members.

“I definitely thought my Area audition was one of the better auditions that I’ve had,” Bell said. “It was nerve-racking not having ever gone through that process before. Going into the audition, I was really hopeful I would make State. I knew if I didn’t I would be okay, but after trying for three years, it was going to be really satisfying if I made it.”

I would love to take credit for every last one of the students who made it, but it’s their victory. They did it.”

— Mike Sheffield, head band director

Each student performed a blind audition, meaning the students and judges could not see each other. The students auditioned one at a time for the judges and waited in a holding room until their turn to perform.

“It was really nice that you were the only person in the room besides the judges while you auditioned,” Bell said. “That definitely helped calm my nerves. I was able to go in and play what I knew instead of listening to everybody else, and it made my audition a lot better than it had been in years past.”

Sheffield said he hopes the All-State experience will stay with the students long after their time in high school.

“Once we get to San Antonio, I will be excited to hear what the students have to say back about the experience,” Sheffield said. “What they see, who they get to work with, what they get to do–That is what I’m looking forward to most. I can’t wait to see what the All-Staters say about everything they got to do.”

Bell said she was excited to experience the All-State process, especially after three years of consistent preparation.

“I think regardless of the amount of work we are going to be putting into it and the difficult music we are going to be playing, it is going to be really satisfying to be playing the music we are at the level we are, and it will be a really fun experience altogether,” Bell said. “I have a nice sense of closure knowing I made it my senior year. It will be something really nice to look back on and a really great final memory.”

Sheffield said he could not be happier with how the audition process turned out.

“I don’t think people realize how much we do and how much the individual performers do because it’s not visible,” Sheffield said. “A great deal of practice and a great deal of preparation goes into it before the actual performance, and I think the victory, although that ‘Canyon High School band’ is tacked at the end of each student on the list, really goes to the students who prepared and really did what was necessary. They went above what they needed to do in order to be incredibly prepared. I would love to take credit for every last one of the students who made it, but it’s their victory. They did it.”


All-State Qualifiers 


Kate McKinney

Bella Haynes


Tobin Brooks


Maggie Bell

Lily Williams

Blake Usleton

Baritone Saxophone

John Flatt


Meghan Brooks (Large school division)


Ian Hughes

Cory Robbins

French Horn

Aryauna Thompson


Charles Neal