How This Bobcat Band Tuba Player Earned All-State Honors
SAN ANGELO, TX — A San Angelo Central High School band musician competed and won first chair tuba in the All-Area Band and advances to state. Carson Clay of the Bobcat Band is the best tuba player in the area, from El Paso to Lubbock to Abilene, earning a spot in the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) All-State Band.
Not only does San Angelo’s top high school musician play the tuba, but he is also a drum major for the marching band. Carson is the son of Ms. Torrey Clay of San Angelo.
The All-Area designation places Carson in the top one-half percent of Texas high school band musicians.
Also earning honors at the All-Area competition was Central piccolo player Baily Bartholomeu. She earned 2nd Alternate at All-Area, placing her in the top five percent of high school band musicians statewide.
The All-Area competition is part of a statewide series of contests of Texas high school musicians, with the best earning a spot in one of the TMEA All-State Band Groups.
The competition begins before school starts in July with the release of the audition music. Usually the music is three etudes, or solo music, from widely used practice exercises for each instrument. All competitors must learn and rehearse the same music.
For Tubas this year, TMEA assigned three selections from Vladislow Blazhevitch’s 70 Tuba Studies, Vol II. The book is standard coursework for tuba players worldwide and has been in publication since 1942. One selection is fast, another expressively moderato, and one slow. Each selection is called an "etude."
The music selections allow a panel of judges, usually band directors with experience performing with the instrument the contestants are competing with, to determine the level of preparation, musicianship, and the contestant’s sound, best impacted by the wind or brass player’s embouchure. Those judges decide which competitors advance to the next level.
To be competitive for the TMEA All-State Band, each contestant must practice 30 minutes to several hours per day. If you miss a day, your preparation suffers, especially among the contestants from the hyper-competitive Texas high school music programs. If you aren’t practicing, you better bet your toughest competition is.
Private lessons with instructors who are masters of the instrument you are competing with are usually necessary to maintain accountability with the student’s practice routine and to gain advanced performance techniques.
Performing for judges, usually hidden behind a curtain, is nerve-racking for most young musicians. Those who master getting over their nerves not only perform their best, but the experience earns each contestant a life skill to perform under immense pressure. It also establishes confidence.
The All-State competition series are basically auditions, starting at the “regional” level. San Angelo ISD students compete in regional auditions against their peers in Midland/Odessa and Abilene.
Not all will win at regionals, but those who earn the top chairs there advance to area competition where top competitors there are selected to advance to All-State.
At the area level, San Angelo ISD students compete with high schools in El Paso, Amarillo, Canyon, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, Abilene and Wichita Falls.
By the time a musician earns a spot in the All-State Band, they are recognized as top shelf talent, ranking in the top 200 of over 80,000 students who began practicing for the competitions during the summer.
Because the statewide competition is so large, and involves so many students at the start, the Texas All-State musicians are considered among the most elite in the world.
Carson travels to San Antonio for the annual TMEA Convention in February. There, he will participate in clinics and rehearsals culminating with concerts of all of the All-State music groups— choir, orchestra, band, etc. He will compete with other musicians for a spot in one of the All-State Honor Groups.
From San Angelo, there were 32 students selected for the region band with 14 advancing to All-Area. Carson Clay is the only band musician from San Angelo advancing to All-State.