by Larry Austin
Jill Sheehan, pictured, a senior at Grand Island High School, was honored in April with the Outstanding Soloist Award at the Dixie Classic Festival in Washington, D.C., April 3 and 4.
The festival brings together school musical groups from across America for performances and evaluations. Sheehan, who has played clarinet since fourth grade, said she's received praise for her play in the past, "but it's really good to see it pay off, all my hard work, by getting an award like that at such a national festival in Washington, D.C."
The music program takes the trip to the festival every other year. This year, the String Orchestra, under the direction of Matthew Ells, and the Concert Band and Wind Ensemble, both under the direction of Martin Allen, made the trip together, and all three groups received superior ratings, the highest given.
Sheehan said the Wind Ensemble performed three songs, and the basis for the solo award was her performance in two different solos, one in the song "Blue Shades" by Frank Ticheli. "It's not something that would be typical for a clarinet, but that's what it's known for," she said of the piece. She called the music "kind of a jazzy, blues song."
"I've never really done anything like that before, so it was kind of neat to play that for the first time, that style," Sheehan added.
The GIHS Wind Ensemble won awards for best brass section and best percussion section as well at the Dixie Classic. To top it off, the Wind Ensemble won the Honor Award for the event, given to the performing group with the highest overall score among all groups at the festival as determined by the festival's panel of adjudicators.
In addition to winning a solo award, to be the principal player in the nine-member clarinet section of a winning program is icing on the cake.
"It was really great. It's one thing to be in it all four years, but to be such a big part of it this year, in being first chair and winning the Outstanding Soloist Award, that was really nice," Sheehan said.
Sheehan plans to attend Canisius College to study accounting, but has a scholarship for the college's concert band.
Anyone who wants to hear Sheehan and the Wind Ensemble in person can attend the town's Memorial Day ceremony at 10 a.m. May 26 in DeGlopper Park, where the group will play patriotic music to accompany the event. The Wind Ensemble will hold a concert June 5 at Williamsville North High School at 7:30 p.m.