Lincoln Middle School sends county record 10 students to All-State bands

Published: Monday, January 6, 2014 at 5:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 6, 2014 at 5:53 p.m.

Correction: Because of incorrect information provided to The Sun, a previous version of this story misspelled the name of Claire Tseng, a Lincoln Middle School student who will attend the Florida All-State band conference this week.

Lincoln Middle School has broken its own county record for the number of students qualifying for the Florida All-State music ensembles.

Last year, four of Lincoln's young musicians were accepted into the audition-based bands, which perform at the Florida Music Educators Association Clinic-Conference.

This year, they're sending 10.

“Usually, if you get one kid in the All-State band, you've done something,” said Oak View Middle band director and Florida Bandmasters District 4 Secretary Lori Pirzer. “Ten is, like, unheard of.”

One Lincoln seventh-grader and nine eighth-graders will attend the annual All-State music conference Wednesday through Friday with Lincoln band director Todd Eckstein.

They are: Sidhika Balachandar and Alexis Scalese on flute; Daniel Koropeckyj-Cox on oboe; Emily An, Justin Harbilas and Madison Kang on clarinet; Amir Helmy on tenor saxophone; Joseph Elston on trumpet; Claire Tseng on violin; and Alex Janelle on viola.

“I am really excited, and although I am a little nervous, I cannot wait because it's the chance of a lifetime,” Alexis Scalese, 13, said.

Alexis, who is in eighth grade, said it's particularly difficult to qualify with her instrument, the flute, because it's one of the most popular instruments, but the All-State band can take only about 10 of them.

Lincoln isn't the only Alachua County school to contribute students to All-State bands this year.

One student each from Fort Clarke Middle, Howard Bishop Middle, Westwood Middle, Queen of Peace Catholic Academy, Eastside High and Gainesville High will play in the concert, orchestra or jazz bands, which are all chosen by audition. Two students from Buchholz High School qualified.

The All-State Honor Band, which is selected by nominations, will include one student each from High Springs Community School, Kanapaha Middle, Oak View Middle, Oak Hall School and Santa Fe High. P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School is contributing two students to the Honor Band.

Students who qualified for All-State bands will convene in Tampa for three days of intensive rehearsals, culminating in performances for the Florida Music Educators Association.

It's not a competition -- more of a collaborative workshop.

“Once you qualify, it just signifies that you're one of the best,” Eckstein said. “To qualify is the reward.”

Amir Helmy, 12, said he has been practicing some of his All-State pieces, Ella Fitzgerald's “That Old Black Magic” and Charlie Parker's “Ornithology,” for weeks leading up to the conference.

He said he's excited to team up with older and younger tenor sax players, to learn, teach and have a good time.

“You get to play with the best in the best in the state, so I'm excited because it's going to be a really good experience,” he said.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top