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Musician Hits the Right Note

<bt>High school bands across the country are in desperate need of bassoons. Awkward and expensive, most students shy away from the large woodwind. But Andrew Horwat was an exception. When his conductor begged students to switch instruments, Horwat did so.

“The school was in need of bassoons, so I decided to help,” said Horwat.

The sacrifice has paid off. Horwat, a junior at Robert E. Lee High School, is now a musician in high demand. He was recently invited to perform with the Honor Band of America, an elite concert band hundreds of high school students apply to.

“It was a big surprise,” said Horwat of his selection. “I never thought I would be picked.”

Horwat will join other high school students from March 19-22 in Indianapolis, Ind., where the Honor Band will perform in the 12th Annual Bands of America National Concert Band Festival. It is recognized as one of the most prestigious music festivals in the country. Mallory Thompson, director of bands at Northwestern University, will conduct.

To be considered for the Honor Band, a high school musician needs to earn a superior rating at the annual Solo and Ensemble Festival. Superior is the highest score judges can award. Next, the student must be nominated by a music teacher who helps the student make an audition tape. The tape is then evaluated by a panel of university wind conductors.

AT FIRST, Horwat was skeptical of his chances. But he decided to give it his best shot by working hard to perfect his audition tape. “I never planned on trying out, but my teacher encouraged me and said it would be a good idea,” he said.

Horwat became interested in music at a young age. Both of his parents play instruments and they supported his desire to play one. “Andrew has wanted to play an instrument since elementary school,” said Stephen Horwat, the musician's father. “The music program is one reason why Fairfax County schools are great.”

Horwat's interest turned serious in seventh grade when he decided to play clarinet. He played in middle school and practiced with a private teacher. But the need of bassoonists made him switch instruments his freshmen year at Lee.

At first, the switch was difficult for Horwat. The bassoon was a big change from the small clarinet. “The bassoon is daunting,” said Horwat. “But it gets easier as you go along.”

With a little less than three years acquaintance with his instrument, Horwat will be one of more inexperienced musicians in the Honor Band. But he makes up for it with his determination and work ethic.

“I am very proud of Andrew,” his father said. “He felt like he had won the lottery when he was selected, but he showed that hard work pays off.”

Horwat divides his time between the bassoon, guitar, and drums. Actively involved in school music groups, he is a member of the orchestra, guitar ensemble, wind ensemble and marching band. But Horwat does not picture himself becoming a professional musician.

“I don’t want to make a career out of this,” he said. “Having music in your life is a great thing in your spare time.”