This is the thirty-ninth installment of a new chapter in our Student Features series on the blog that we will be posting leading up to the 2017 Music for All National Festival, presented by Yamaha. Music for All will be featuring three honor ensembles (Honor Band of America, Honor Orchestra of America, and the Jazz Band of America) at the Music for All National Festival, March 9th through March 11th. We look forward to getting to know all of these wonderful students who have been accepted into these prestigious ensembles!

Honor Band of America members and friends, Brant Ford and Emily Cooper met at the University of Louisville Invitational Honor Band and participated in KMEA All-State together. These two friends have inspired each other over their passion for music. Learn more about Brant and Emily in their joint feature!

 Emily and Brant

Name: Brant Ford

Hometown: Henderson, KY

School Name: Henderson County High School

Instrument: Alto Saxophone

Name: Emily Cooper

Hometown: Lexington, KY

School Name: Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Instrument: Clarinet

Which Ensemble Are You In?
Honor Band of America

What made you decide to apply to be a part of the ensemble?
Brant: I’ve always enjoyed playing in and meeting people from honor bands, and this one seems to be consistently amazing. It will also be a great opportunity to make some connections from fellow musicians from around the country.

Emily: I learned about the ensemble my freshman year of high school because some other members in the band at my school attended that year. I love playing clarinet and the atmosphere of honor bands, so when my fellow band members talked about their great experience, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

What are three things you’ve learned from being involved in band or orchestra?
B: 1. Practice is the best way to change (and hopefully improve) something. 2. More sound doesn’t mean more music. 3. Nobody likes an ego!

E: I’ve definitely learned to be more aware of others. It started with listening for everyone’s part in the music and then it spread to other aspects of my life. I’ve also learned that you won’t get anywhere without the right attitude. You should always have respect for directors and other musicians, and also be willing to work hard and not give up. Lastly, I’ve learned to be resilient. Not everything is going to go exactly the way you want it to, and you have to be able keep going and not let it throw you off.

Most memorable moment in band or orchestra?
B: Playing the finale of James Barnes’ Third Symphony in rehearsal with my state’s all state band. For about 30 seconds, it felt as though I was fully experiencing everything James Barnes intended to communicate through his piece. It was a beautiful feeling!

E: The most memorable moment I’ve had in band has to be the Europe Tour with the Kentucky Ambassadors of Music. Our last concert was in Germany in the town square of Rothenburg. After we performed all our pieces, we received a standing ovation and were asked for an encore. I think it’s amazing that even though the musicians may not speak the same language as the audience, everyone can understand music.

Besides band/orchestra, what are you involved in at school?
B: I used to participate in my school’s philosophy club, but this year I’ve focused all my attention to music.

E: I am in the Math, Science, and Technology Center (MSTC) program, my school’s magnet program. I am also in Spanish National Honors Society, Science National Honors Society, Dunbar’s Cultural Society, and the Band Outreach Program, where a group of high schoolers give free lessons to band students in a middle school that feeds into Dunbar.

What book have you read that you would recommend?
B: I’m not a big reader, but Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is pretty great!

E: Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

What’s your favorite song or piece of music?
B: My favorite piece is Walimai by Michael Djupstrom. I first heard it performed live and it made me fall in love with the saxophone.

E: Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez or Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky

Favorite ice cream flavor?
B & E: Cookies and Cream

What’s your favorite non-music related hobby or past time?
B: I enjoy taking naps and looking at memes.

E: I love traveling to new places, learning about the culture and bits of the language, and scrapbooking my trips.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give a friend who needs some inspiration or motivation?
B: I feel like motivation and inspiration are unreliable facilitators for achieving excellence. While it’s true we get our best work done in a state of heightened motivation or inspiration, we have to rely on discipline to keep ourselves practicing and improving. You won’t always want to work hard, and there will be days where you question if the end goal is even worth it. If we discipline ourselves to steadily practice, we will steadily improve even through periods of time where we don’t have the desire to.

E: You can do anything you set your mind to. Always do your best and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

What’s your current plan for what you want to do after graduating high school?
B: I plan to attend a university and major in saxophone performance.

E: After graduating high school, I plan on getting both my undergraduate degree and masters in clarinet performance.

Have you participated in MFA/BOA events before? Which ones?
B: I have not.

E: I marched in the 2014 Super Regional Championships in St. Louis and the 2015 Regional Championships in Dayton.

Tell us something interesting/unique about you:
B: I love atonal music!

E: I helped hatch baby sea turtles and release them into the ocean on a beach in Mexico, and I marched in the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.