District students (shown with composer Robert W. Smith) attend Western International Band Clinic (WIBC) 2019

Band students from Bellingham, Sehome and Squalicum high schools were selected by recorded audition to attend the Western International Band Clinic (WIBC) Honor Band in late November 2019. Along with over 300 of their peers from around the Pacific Northwest, the clinic was held over four days in Seattle, Washington.

The band students rehearsed and performed together under professors and composers, including world-renowned band composer Robert W. Smith. The weekend of activities included a clinic with music educator Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, a myriad of band rehearsals, concerts by high school and university bands, and a main event with Boston Brass. The four-day clinic culminated with final concerts by two WIBC Honor Bands.

The music students attending from Bellingham Public Schools included Bellingham High students Katie Beecham, Ashley Grinstead and Leigh Hjelmseth; Sehome High student Rosie Kirker; and Squalicum High students Shannon Bosche, Michael Daley, Kyana Grayer, Diego Mesquita and Sofia Mesquita.

In addition to her selection to WIBC in both 2018 and 2019, senior Leigh Hjelmseth, flutist and drum major from Bellingham High School, was also chosen as one of 20 students from across the United States to attend the Pacific Honours Ensemble Program (PHEP)/State Honours Ensemble Program (SHEP) in Australia earlier this fall. PHEP/SHEP is a cross-Pacific partnership that brings exceptional students from western U.S. high schools together with Queensland students. She was selected after the 2018 WIBC and travelled “down under” at the end of September, visiting both Sydney and Brisbane.

“During my application for WIBC in 2018, I kind of checked a box without thinking about it, asking if I would like to be considered to play in Australia,” Leigh said, “and I was surprised and excited when I got an email inviting me to go.” Based on her recorded audition for WIBC, she was selected from a pool of 1,000 student musicians. As an additional honor during the PHEP experience, she was selected to sit as the first chair flute for the partnership honor band.

While seeing a performance at the Sydney Opera House, visiting a koala sanctuary, living with a host family, and being amazed by the size of Aussie spiders were all part of her adventure, Leigh had a very clear answer when asked what the most impactful part of the experience was. “I think that the biggest thing I learned during this experience,” she said “is that music connects us all.”

“I went to Australia, and while it’s a totally different culture there, I met a bunch of kids and the only thing we really had in common was that we were all in music. I met so many new friends that I know I will have for a lifetime and the only thing we had in common was band.”

A rather nice life adventure and lesson for inadvertently checking a box on an application.

Congratulations to Leigh and to all our district WIBC honor band students.

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