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For Busy High-Schoolers: Music, Sports, Or Both?

Corin Cates-Carney

The 2015 State Music Festivals were held last weekend in Billings and Missoula. This event draws young musicians from all over the state to showcase their work in front of a panel of judges. The annual festival also forces some high school students to decide between music and busy spring sports seasons.  Brothers Quinten and Eli Goos play in the jazz bands of Whitefish High School, but after walking off stage in Missoula on Friday it was time for athletics - in Boise.

The boys’ father, Kyle Goos, says a requested performing scheduled allowed the boys to get to a soccer tournament over the weekend.

"These guys were able to perform early, so we can get on the road and drive another 10 hours. They were originally scheduled this afternoon. And if that would have held true we would have had to made decisions accordingly. But it’s all working out so they get to do it all."

Mark McCrady, the Whitefish Band director, scheduled his students to play on the first day of the Festival, knowing how many much athletics can conflict with the Festival.

"I would say a good portion of our bus includes runners and pole vaults and tennis players. So we’ve done our best to work around those events as well. But it is unfortunate because I think many students from AA schools will have to make that choice: will I run in the track meet, or will I participate at the state festival for music."

In smaller schools where fewer students fill a team roster and take part in band, a school’s track star might also take a lead solo in a jazz band.

Scott McKenzie, co-organizes the Festival at the University of Montana, in Missoula. McKenzie says every year, many of the 1,000 plus students have conflicts between activities.

"And it came up today in a lot of conversations…. And there has always been a conflict as far as the number of activities scheduled on the Saturday of the Music Festival, and there probably isn’t a way around that."

With band practice, tennis, track, homework and learning how to drive, these kids can be spread thin.

Ella Van Vlack, balances hip-hop and jazz dance along with her participation in the Whitefish band. And, like the Goos brothers, she’s getting picked up early to go to another event in the evening.

"I do cross country well, I do plays… (dad interrupts : 'and you’re trying  get your license. You can’t fit it in') and I can’t take driver-ed yet because I have jazz band in the morning three days a week and I have dance two days a week after school. And I can’t miss any of them."

Van Vlack and the Goos brothers are all in their first two years of high school,  and they don’t feel like they need to specialize in their skills anytime soon.

The young students’ lifestyles fill schedule books, trying to fit in everything they can.

The senior clarinet player in Whitefish’ Birdland Jazz Combo says those other actives eventually fade away.

On stage, Jordan Reese steps and snaps in time. He runs cross country and pole-vaulting accident this spring almost removed from the district music competition.
"It was one of those things where I realized how much stress one thing was putting on my body whereas the other was going to do a better thing for my life," Reese says. "If I continued pursuing music it was going to have a better for me than breaking my wrist pole-vaulting."

Reese says, it’s a decision about learning, and growing into, a skill-set. And it’s important to have those conflicts, because they force a decision.

"You’re one or the other. You can’t be the chip off the old block giant center of the football team and also play jazz. It just doesn’t happen."

Reese had plenty to keep him busy without sports this weekend. He spent the first day of the festival running from jazz band combo’s, to clarinet quartets and  solo performances.

Next year he plans on going to community college after graduation, then finding a school to study music.

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