Clayton High percussionists win world championship

ajames@newsobserver.comMay 5, 2013 

  • World class

    Performing at the Winter Guard International in Clayton High School’s Winter Percussion Ensemble were seniors Andrew Householder, Kyle Levan, Colby Lipscomb, Kati Swanson, Tucker Vaeth and Becky Withers; juniors Billy Bakaysa, Chris Broome, Steven Carswell, Becca Cole, Madison Levan and Chris Miller; sophomores Anna Carman, Josiah Fiebelkorn, Lauryn Holland, Griffin Lane and Zach Williams; and freshmen Michael Householder, Joey Smith and Mitchell Stanton.

— Twenty Clayton High band students have earned the right to call themselves world champions.

The students are members of the Winter Percussion Ensemble, a select group of musicians in grades 9-12 that rehearses and performs outside of class. The group, instructed by band teacher John Pearson and percussion director Jerry Carpenter, traveled to Dayton, Ohio, last month for an international band competition called Winter Guard International and won at the highest level.

“There really isn’t anything bigger than this in the winter percussion,” said Pearson.

The group has practiced twice a week after school and on some Saturdays since December. Before qualifying for the WGI competition, they won contests at the local and regional levels.

Groups from Clayton High have qualified for the competition since 2007, and some have won the silver medal. But this year’s ensemble took it a step further, winning gold in the Concert Open Class.

There were several elements that made this year’s group different.

A big part of the improvement, Pearson said, was adding Carpenter to the group. Carpenter, a professional music writer, was hired by the booster club specifically to work with the band’s percussionists.

Carpenter arranged the piece the group played this year, a medley of classical orchestral music. That’s different from the standard music these groups play, which is usually a single song played all the way through. Students got to learn about several musicians and develop an appreciation for where the music came from. Some of the pieces included “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “Mother Goose” and “Clair de Lune.”

“It was completely different from other groups,” said junior ensemble member Becca Cole.

Pearson said the suspense mounted during the awards ceremony.

“They called all of the medalists on stage and we were called, but we didn’t know which place,” said Pearson. “When they called second place, it was a big relief.”

The group consisted of six seniors, including Kyle Levan, who plays marimba.

Kyle has been to the WGI competition before while at Clayton High and said this year was much different.

“Sophomore year we played a lot of loud drums, but this year we played a medley, and it was all music from the Impressionistic period,” Kyle said.

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