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Northwood senior Kelsey O’Daniel (and her clarinet) are headed for the bright lights in the big city

Posted Thursday, December 12, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - Clearly, Kelsey O’Daniel took that old adage about “Practice, practice, practice” to heart. Last spring she was selected as a member of the Central All-District Honor Band. A four-year member of the NHS Marching Chargers, this year she was a featured performer in their competition program, Way Down Yonder, opening the performance as a member of the Dixieland Quartet. In addition to her performances in this year’s All-Superior band, she shared some great news she received on Halloween.

Kelsey: Mr. Cottrell came to me towards the end of the last school year to tell me he wanted to nominate me for the National High School Honors Ensemble. Of course I was incredibly excited.

I prepared for the audition a couple weeks before the deadline. I submitted a recording along with my application. I played a short etude that was recommended on the website and also a small bit of Brahms’s second clarinet sonata, which I had just finished working on for my private lessons. In all, the audition was 5 minutes long. Mr. Moore (my private teacher) and I didn't spend too much time in lessons working on it. However, everything that he taught me up until that point really helped me prepare to work on it on my own time. He taught me how to have successful practice time, and that definitely played a part in my preparation.

The hardest part of the whole process was the wait. I submitted my application at the end of June and I had to wait until the very end of October before I heard back; it was agonizing. I found out that I had gotten in on October 31st. I've never been to New York City but have always wanted to go. In addition, I will be playing in Carnegie Hall for the concert; I have no words to describe my excitement. The trip lasts from February 6th through the 10th. While there, I will get to tour parts of NYC, see a Broadway show, and rehearse with other very good high school musicians.

Tell us a little about how you got involved in music in school.

Kelsey: I started band in 6th grade, playing the clarinet. However, I was interested in music even before I started band class. I always loved listening to music and I taught myself to play a little bit of piano (I had gotten an electronic keyboard one Christmas and I absolutely loved it!)

Until my brother began high school (two years ahead of me), I had never even considered marching band. I never realized that it was such a big deal. Many people don't realize that there is more to marching band than just playing at football games, we actually go to competitions and compete. As a senior, I can say that marching band is the best thing that I have chosen to do in high school. It taught me so much about leadership and about having pride in what I do. It also allowed me to meet people and form friendships I will never forget.

I was the only freshman clarinet my first year of marching band and it kind of terrified me. At that point, I was still just like any other freshman as far as my musical talent went. The summer after my freshman year I started to establish a good practice routine. And it did pay off! During summer band camp before my sophomore year, my fellow clarinet players encouraged me to try out for a leadership position. To do this, one must record their entire marching band show from memory. When I came back the second week, Mr. Cottrell told me that my recording was one of the best recordings for a leadership position he had heard in a while. Hearing that was a definite confidence boost for me. I became a “squad leader,” meaning I was in charge of a small group of band confidence boost for me. I became a “squad leader,” meaning I was in charge of a small group of band members for marching exercises. I also became the clarinet section leader (as I have been since).

That second year led me to want to study music beyond high school. I joined the Jazz Band playing bass guitar and participated in the pit for the spring musical. I enjoyed participating in the musical so much. I loved the long rehearsals and the music was so much more difficult than anything I had ever played before. That was what made me want a career in music; it made me realize how much I love to play my instrument. Mr. Cottrell quickly helped me find a private instructor (Scott Moore) who would help me extend my playing ability. Private lessons made a huge difference. I have improved tremendously since I began taking lessons.

My third year in marching band, I held a leader position of “general,” meaning I oversaw two squads. During that year, I auditioned for the Central All-District Band. I qualified but, unfortunately, the clinic was cancelled due to winter weather. In February 2013, I attended an Honors Band clinic at the University of South Carolina. I was nominated by Mr. Cottrell, with a few other students. At the clinic, participants were split into four different bands by audition and I was the first chair clarinetist in my band. Each day we had rehearsals that lasted about 6 hours total. I also participated in a spring showcase for my private teacher's studio and played in a clarinet quartet with other studio members. Also, Mr. Cottrell gave me a few clarinet parts in Jazz Band (including a feature), which is somewhat rare since he doesn't normally include clarinets.

During this final year of marching band, I was featured in our show. I was part of the Dixieland Quartet that starts the show and I had a small solo during the 2nd movement. I also served as “horn line captain.” Currently, I am working on my college audition music, an All-District Band audition piece, Christmas concert songs and parade music for marching band. In addition to Marching Band, I have taken Symphonic Band, Concert Band all four years, music theory, and American Music History.

Kelsey’s mother, Cynthia, shared a little more information about the Honors Ensemble trip next February.

Cynthia: The program components and airfare for Kelsey to participate in the Honors Ensemble will cost a little over $2000. The Honors Ensemble provides a wonderful and simple way for community members, friends, and family to support Kelsey’s adventure … with a “Gift of Performance” which is an online donation.

The Honors Performance website also provides a way for Kelsey to send “Gift of Performance” messages via email. Visit the web page here: Contributions made using this method go directly toward Kelsey’s program participation costs but do not cover added costs of airfare and meals.

If community members would like to support Kelsey, either a Gift of Performance contribution or a contribution made directly to Kelsey and delivered to Mr. Cottrell at Northwood High School will be greatly appreciated.

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Northwood senior Kelsey O’Daniel (and her clarinet) are headed for the bright lights in the big city
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