Harper Woods tuba player prepares for state festival

By: Mike Koury | Advertiser Times | Published March 9, 2016

 Justin Wentland will make his third appearance in the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association State Solo & Ensemble Festival March 19.

Justin Wentland will make his third appearance in the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association State Solo & Ensemble Festival March 19.

Photo provided by Justin Wentland

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HARPER WOODS — Seventeen-year-old Justin Wentland has taken on several different instruments during his time at Harper Woods High School.

It’s his performance with the tuba, though, that has led him to earn high honors this year and advance to a state competition.

Wentland will be taking part in the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association State Solo & Ensemble Festival that will be held on Saturday, March 19, at Chippewa Valley High School, 18300 19 Mile Road in Clinton Township. 

To earn his place at the festival, Wentland earned a Division 1 rating, the highest rating one can receive, at the District XVI Solo and Ensemble Festival in January.

This is Wentland’s third appearance in the festival on his third different instrument. He played the alto saxophone his freshman year and the tenor saxophone his junior year. He earned a Division 2 rating from judges both times.

Wentland first took up the tuba his sophomore year when no other student was able to play the instrument for the upcoming year. He volunteered to try it.

“It was pretty hard because I’m used to … saxophone, which has a whole different way of playing it,” he said. “But after some time, and I got help from (the former tuba player), it was a lot of fun.  

Band Director Shannon Rogers said the festival isn’t so much a competition, but more along the lines of judges grading the performances on a set of standards and giving grades of Division 1, 2 and so on.

“It’s a pretty friendly environment,” Wentland said. “You just want to see everybody do the best they can.”

Rogers described Wentland, who also acts as drum major, as one of the leaders of the band.

“Each year, we can see him progressing in his leadership skills,” she said.

To get ready for the festival, Wentland has been working on bettering his solo that he performed at districts, titled “Sarabanda and Gavotta,” by working on his finger placements, based on the advice of the judges.

Performing in front of judges is a different experience for Wentland, as it’s just him by himself with no other accompaniment.

“The first couple of times I did it, I was a lot more nervous,” he said. But as I do it more and more, I kind of get more comfortable.

“Every time you enter that room and the judge is just sitting there, waiting for you to play, you do get nervous and everything, because you got to compose yourself and make sure that you remember that it’s just another time playing the song,  and hopefully you’ll do your best.”

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