Garden City girl makes state




Dedicated, talented and disciplined.

Those are the attributes Garden City High School band director Lyle Sobba describes when talking about one of his band students, Maggie Unruh, who recently was selected for the 2014 all-state 5/6A band.

Unruh, a junior at GCHS, was selected from among close to 700 other band students in the state as one of four bassoon players for the all-state band.

"She works hard, she plays well, she's a great technical player. She just, all-around, has it put together. I wish I could claim her," Sobba said, and then laughed.

Unruh practiced a lot before the auditions.

"I started practicing in December for the district honor band and then a couple of weeks before it, I worked a lot extra on it," she said. "The week before, I started doing like 45 minutes to an hour a day."

Sobba, however, said that most students have to put a lot more effort into it than that.

"Maggie has a gift," he said.

To even audition for all-state band each year, high school students first must be chosen to play in their respective district's honor band, of which there are six in the state. GCHS is part of the Southwestern district of the Kansas Music Educators Association, which encompasses schools from Great Bend west to the Colorado border and south to the Oklahoma border.

"They had about 250 audition for that band, and they took about 104," Sobba said.

The competition is even more fierce for all-state band, he added. Of the approximate 700 others who auditioned from around the state, only 110 were chosen. Eight others from GCHS auditioned this year, including Tara Holmes, Anahi Medel, Sir Dennis, Ricardo Sauceda, Noah Rude, Avery Turner, Danny Whited and Erica Nicholson.

Sobba was pleased with the number who tried out.

"We really had a lot of kids prep and, frankly, we had a lot of kids audition. One of the nice things about being out here is getting a kid with the ability to audition is a little bit easier than on the eastern side of the state. When you're looking at populations, the KMEA district that houses Kansas City, they have as many kids involved in fine arts as the kids in the rest of the state districts combined.

When the students audition, they choose to either play in the all-state band or the all-state orchestra, and then if they make it, they are placed accordingly, Unruh says. Last year, she made all-state orchestra.

"It's really cool because bassoons can be in both," she said. "I'm really glad I was in orchestra last year and band this year, so I can try both of them and see what it's like, and then, in my senior year, I can decide, 'This is the one I'm going to go for.'"

If she makes all-state again next year, Unruh will receive a medal.

"My friend and I are going to try to get all three," she said. "He does choir, Eric Maxwell. We're both second-year kids at state, and so our goal is to make all three years."

Maxwell was one of seven GCHS choir students to make all-state choir this year. The others were Jeffery Bogner, Joshua Fabin, Columba Martinez, Haley Mayfield, Ariana Rodriguez and Nennah Vainerere.

The all-state band and choir, along with the all-state jazz band and all-state orchestra, will perform on March 1 during the Kansas Music Educators Association Convention at Century II in Wichita.

In addition to being busy with band, Unruh is also a member of the forensics and debate team. When asked how she juggles everything, she laughed and said, "I have no idea, but it's really fun, so it's worth it."

Unruh and the rest of the all-state band members will re-audition for chair placement, and then on Feb. 27, they'll meet in Wichita to practice for the concert.

"They rehearse from about noon that Thursday until about 9 p.m., and then all day Friday, so from 9 to 9, and then they have about two hours Saturday morning to play a concert," Sobba said.

Unruh's parents, Troy and Brenda Unruh, are proud of her.

"They're pretty excited. Like last year, they got to come up and see the concert, and my dad's like, 'Oh it brought me to tears,'" she said, with a smile.

Sobba is proud to have GCHS students representing the area this year.

"My message to everybody on the eastern side of the state is, 'We are doing quality things out here,'" she said. "Even though we feel like we're kind of behind on the times as far as getting people out here to teach, people out here to clinic, we still have music happening — we still have quality music happening."

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