Big Piney High School musician makes it to All-State

Photograph courtesy Adalyn Bennett Big Piney High School junior Adalyn Bennett is now learning the ukelele.

the span of a decade,

junior Adalyn Bennett has learned to play

just about every instrument out there. She

launched her music career with the piano,

followed by several years on the flute and

then a major switch to the French horn

in high school. She plays the mellophone

and trumpet in pep band.

Bennett also played the church organ

on occasion and picked the guitar up for

a few weeks. A month ago, when she was

in Casper, Bennett bought a ukulele and is

teaching herself how to play using You-


Bennett’s hard work, talent and adaptability

were recognized this year when

she was selected by the Wyoming Music

Educators Association to play the French

horn with the 2019 All-State Honors

Band. Getting into All-State is one of the

highest honors a high school musician can

achieve, and Bennett was the only student

selected this year from Big Piney High


A multidimensional musician

Bennett was in kindergarten when she

first sat down at the piano. Her grandmother

provided the instruction, but

Bennett also found inspiration from her

mother, a local piano teacher in Big Piney.

“My mother is a fabulous teacher,”

said Bennett. “That’s how I started to get


Bennett no longer takes formal piano

lessons, but she still plays for her church

and “for fun.” She is proficient in a wide

range of different keyboard styles, from

sacred hymns to music from the Renaissance.

This year, she learned to play a

piano transcription of one of her favorite

songs, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

In fifth grade, Bennett joined the elementary

school band and spent the next

four years playing the flute. In ninth

grade, she switched from the woodwinds

to the brass section.

“We hadn’t had a high school French

horn player in years,” she said. “We had

a lot of flutes and not much brass. So Mr.

(Travis) Swanson encouraged me to try

the French horn.”

Bennett quickly mastered the French

horn, stating it was basically a task of

learning “to make music out of something

else.” She performed 19th-century German

composer Franz Strauss’ “Nocturno

for Horn and Piano” at a local music festival.

The piece was “really hard” to study,

but worth it, because Bennett learned that

Big Piney High School musician makes it to All-State

there are “lots of beautiful solo pieces for

the horn.”

A lot of Bennett’s musical inspiration

comes from Broadway musicals.

“The way they tell stories through

music is awesome,” she said. One of her

favorite musicals is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s

“Hamilton.” For her 16th birthday,

Bennett got to see a live performance of

“Hamilton” in Chicago.

Bennett enjoys listening to instrumental

jazz as good “background” music for

studying. Recently, Bennett has become

a big fan of Queen, a “legendary group

of music makers” that she and her friends

“listen to a lot.”

All the way to All-State

This January, Bennett was one of about

80 high school musicians chosen out of a

pool of hundreds of other students from

across Wyoming to perform in the prestigious

All-State Honors Band. The audition

process is grueling and requires a lot

of practice.

The Wyoming Music Educators Association

sets an audition date and posts

materials online that hopefuls only have a

few weeks to master. In addition to learning

selections from two pieces of music,

those auditioning also have to perform all

the regular scales and a chromatic scale.

Then they have to pass a sight-reading


Bennett explained that she worked with

Big Piney’s band teacher, Travis Swanson,

and Justin Smith from Pinedale High

School to prepare her audition tape. Once

she was selected, Bennett started learning

the five pieces that the All-State Honors

Band performed this January in Casper.

The musicians who arrive in Casper from

around the state have only two busy days

of rehearsal to prepare for the concert.

“They expect you to be pretty well prepared

when you arrive,” Bennett said.

Students from larger schools often

have the luxury of practicing for All-State

with other band, choir or orchestra mates.

Bennett, however, was on her own. She

used YouTube to listen to professional

performances of the pieces and learn her


“YouTube was my best friend,” she


Three of the five pieces were “pretty

easy to put together,” Bennett added. The

fourth was “a little more difficult,” while

the fifth, “Vesuvius” by Frank Ticheli,

was “pretty intense.” Ticheli’s piece

jumps around between lots of unusual

time signatures.

Bennett’s favorite piece was called

“Ammerlande” by contemporary Dutch

composer Jacob de Haan. The selection

was particularly “lush and pretty and really

dramatic,” Bennett said.

This was Bennett’s first year attending

All-State, and the experience was positive.

“The eight people in the horn section

were really great to get to know,” she

said. “It was cool to be around people

who love band and are super passionate

about the music.”

Somehow Bennett manages to find

time to practice the horn and all the other

instruments she plays in between basketball,

swimming in the fall, church activities

and serving on the student council.

Bennett has another year of high school

and plenty of time to figure out what she

wants to do after graduation. But no matter

what path she chooses, she is certain

that she

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