The first step Devin had to take was to receive a I rating at the district festival. After this rating, he continued to work on his songs, “Russian Hymn” and “Air For Coronet,” so that he could get the score he wanted at the state level. “Well, first I practiced really hard, and then I would always tell myself I could do it because without self-motivation, you can't get anywhere. So, that self-motivation helped push myself to get in front of the judges and play my pieces. I think the inspiration from our band teacher helped me push myself to achieve the goal I needed, and I tried to grind out every single little problem that I had,” Devin explained.
Mrs. Koch further explained the preparation it takes to achieve this experience. “ It takes a lot of rehearsing and practicing the correct way in class to start with. On top of that, Devin has been coming to school early several times a week for a couple months before the district festival and also continued to do so after he achieved his ‘I’ at districts to prepare for state. Devin has also been meeting with his accompanist on his own time in the evenings and on weekends to practice.”
There are some similarities and differences between the district level and state level of performing. Each performance, district and state, is designed to determine the best players in the state. “District music festival and State music festival are very similar in the way they function. Both are categorized into solo performances or ensemble performances, and both have the same judging criteria. One main difference, I suppose, is in the preparation and expectation of the performance. We have the district music festival to determine who the top players of the district are and then State to determine who among them will be your top state players. Expectations at the state level are a little more strict than those at the district level,” Mrs. Koch elaborated.
On the day of state festival, the performers traveled to Mizzou’s campus to be judged at the state level. Mrs. Koch broke down the day: “Each student will get an opportunity to play for one judge that day who will then evaluate the performance based on a scale of ‘I’ - ‘V.’ A ‘I’ is the highest rating a musician can receive, labeling it a ‘superior performance.’”
This was Devin’s first time performing at the state level, and he is the only freshman at New Haven High to ever receive a I rating to move onto state. He was asked what it was like performing in front of the judge at the state level. “Truthfully, nice and not even nerve racking, because I knew I was going to do good and achieve my goal of a good score,” he stated.
After all of his hard work, Devin scored a II rating. He has some advice for future students who want to participate in the music festivals: “Feel confident that you will do good, practice hard, and feel the music. Whatever you're playing, try to nail the parts that you're having trouble with, and also ask your teacher for help; that is the main thing. With all that, you will do amazing.” Next year, he plans on getting a I at the state level.