Mohon, Blezinger earn top marks at state band contest

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

May 31, 2007 - Two sophomore soloists and two ensembles from Sulphur Springs High School earned first division ratings at the Texas State Solo & Ensemble contest held in Austin Monday.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Sulphur Springs High School students Shelby Blezinger (left) and Kaci Mohon both earned first division ratings at the Texas State Solo & Ensemble contest.

One other soloist and a trio earned second division ratings at the contest.

Kaci Mohon earned one of the rare first division ratings for her clarinet solo, and Shelby Blezinger for her timpani solo.

Blezinger was also part of the first division percussion ensemble, which also included Paul Clark, Dusty McQueen, Sarah Fox, Morgan Lutz, Jordan Owens and Whitney Starrett. Also awarded a first division superior rating was the saxophone quartet of Robin Grafton, Rosalyn Karstens, Jacob Mazoch and Caitlyn Scudder.

Mohon was also part of the second division clarinet trio, which also included Jordan Godwin and Deonne Hopper. Dusty McQueen and Jodan Owens also each earned a second division rating for their snare drum solos.

"Earning a second division at the state contest is outstanding. First divisions are very rare and exceptional," SSHS Director of Bands Charles McCauley noted Thursday. "At that contest, 3s are average. There were a lot of 3s at that contest.

"It's intense, one of the toughest [contests], if not the toughest, in the country, some think," McCauley added. "There were very few 1s, and some 2s."

Although they did not all rank in the top two ratings, McCauley said 27 SSHS students had the honor of advancing to and competing in the state meet. The SSHS band program also entered a clarinet trio, a baritone trio, another saxophone quartet and a brass quintet. Two other students also performed instrument solos.

Students were required to compete in a room in front of an audience. They entered, spoke to the judge and performed. Several students had parents who made the journey to Austin with them to show their support, another factor McCauley attributes to the success of the students and the band program. Judging began at about 8 a.m. and continued until about 5:30 p.m., with judges hearing approximately 50 performances per day. Some gave small clinics afterwards.

"All of our students played well, even those who didn't earn a medal. All the sheets from the judges tell that. These students play at such a high level. In order to receive a first division, they have to be the best of the best. Sometimes they gave their best performance, but it wasn't the best. I'm very please with all of the results at state and happy with their performance at this contest," McCauley said.

He noted that one judge was especially flattering to Kaci Mohon, going so far as to clap following her clarinet solo, and indicated Mohon and Blezinger's first division rankings, while exciting, weren't too surprising.

"They are both very deserving. Both are dedicated, giving their time to practice and prepare. They are both great at all they do, and they are both involved in several things, not just band," McCauley said.

Mohon was also first chair clarinet at region, area and state, and does "exceptionally well" playing 1st chair in the school's symphonic band.

In November, Blezinger played int he Percussion Arts Society International Concert in Austin. 

Blezinger last year earned second division ratings for her Class I solo, which drove her to practice every day after school as well as any time during the day she wasn't already occupied. That, coupled with a "nice" judge, helped lessen her nervousness this year. She also is learning piano on the side, and said has always thought she'd like to do something in music, but said she's not sure what she'd like to do. She also plays tennis, is in 4-H, participates in church activities and will soon be participating in FFA.

Mohon says she's been taking private lessons from Jeff Smith every week for about a year, and is also learning to play the flute on the side. She also plays saxophone in the jazz band, competes in UIL math and number sense, and, according to McCauley, is a math and science whiz.

She admits she "loves music," and said while a little bit nervous, she just decided to do her best and have fun with her performance at the state contest. And it paid off.

Students performing for the state contest were first required to select music from UIL's preset list, then get approval to perform it.

Blezinger played "Rongo #1," and Mohon played "Concertino for Clarinets" by Weber.

"This was a great end to a great year," McCauley said of the students' performances and accomplishments at the state contest.

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