5 high school students from Lawrence named to national music ensembles

photo by: Contributed Photos

Five Lawrence students were named to the 2020 All-National Honor Ensembles by the National Association for Music Education. They are, top row from left, Lawrence High School students Ashton Rapp and Connor Jones, and bottom row from left, Free State High School students Ellie LeBar, Hollis Wilkins and Emily Bial.

Several Lawrence students recently earned national recognition for their musical talents.

Free State High School’s Emily Bial, Ellie LeBar and Hollis Wilkins, and Lawrence High School’s Connor Jones and Ashton Rapp were named to the 2020 All-National Honor Ensembles by the National Association for Music Education. They are five of just 550 students nationwide to earn the honor.

“The recognition is a big deal, and they’ve worked hard,” said Mike Jones, LHS Director of Bands and Connor’s father. “They know not everybody gets to be a member of the national ensembles.”

The All-National Honor Ensembles consist of a concert band, symphony orchestra, mixed choir, jazz ensemble, guitar ensemble and modern band. Connor was named first chair trombone player for the symphony orchestra, while Ashton, Emily, Ellie and Hollis were named to the choir.

Some students have earned the national recognition in the past, including Ellie, who received the honor in 2019. But it is still relatively rare, and those who earn the recognition have to be “really dang good,” Jones said.

The students were selected for the national ensembles by working their way up the local and state ensembles first. Last school year the Northeast Kansas Music Educators Association and the Kansas Music Educators Association named them to their ensembles. The students were then given the chance to try out for the national ensembles.

Through their selection, the students recently participated in a virtual rehearsal with nationally renowned conductors. They will continue to work with the conductors and their ensembles virtually and eventually release a full performance in March.

Scott Ireland, director of Free State’s choir program, said his students were excited by the recognition, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic changing the way school and choir are conducted.

“It was kind of a bright spot in their 2020, since we’ve been missing choir the way it was,” said Ireland, who teaches all three of the Free State students. “I’m really proud of my students and their hard work,” he added.

The pandemic has also changed the way the students participate in the program. Normally, the students would travel to participate in the ensembles, but the pandemic forced activities to be held virtually. Like many other educational activities in the past year, that has put a small damper on the achievement.

“They are excited about it but, to be perfectly honest, they are disappointed they don’t get to perform with anybody in the way they know,” Jones said of the LHS students.

As part of his selection, Connor was named first chair trombone, which means he is one of the best trombone players in the country to try out for the ensemble. Additionally, while Ashton was named to the choir ensemble, he is also a drum major at LHS and has worked closely with the band.

“I get to work with both of them and they are just delightful,” Jones said. “They take full advantage of all of the things happening at Lawrence High.”

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