Gavin Tarling, a South Portland High School senior, will perform in the National Association for Music Education 2020 All-National Honor Ensembles Virtual Event Jan. 7 and 8. Courtesy photo Joanne Lee

SOUTH PORTLAND — Gavin Tarling, a South Portland High School senior, will join more than 550 students across the country in a virtual music event on Jan. 7 and 8.

The All-National Honors Ensemble is a program from the National Association for Music Education, an organization that provides advocation for the arts, resources for schools and opportunities for students and teachers, according to the organization’s website.

According to a national association press release, Tarling will be a bass singer in the chorus ensemble, consisting of more than 200 students.

Scott R. Sheehan, director of bands and chair of the music department and Kristen Rencher, director of business development, strategic initiatives, and student programs, explained what the virtual event will look like. Students will participate in one of six different ensembles.

“This year, with the assistance of a production company, each ensemble will create a compilation video of the music they have prepared,” they said in an email. “Every student will record his or her part at home and submit their videos electronically for inclusion in the virtual ensemble production. The final project will be premiered in March 2021 as part of NAfME’s 36th-annual Music in Our Schools Month celebration.”

When Tarling first discovered that he was selected, he couldn’t believe it, he said.

“I’d gotten an email in July saying that I was selected as an alternate,” he said. “Then I hear back two months later in October, and was like, ‘Oh, wait — I got in.’ It took a couple minutes to process. It was shocking and incredible to hear about. I was excited and there were a million thoughts going through my head.”

A singer and saxophone player, Tarling began taking piano lessons in elementary school, he said. From there his passion for music only grew.

“I started taking piano lessons in second or third grade because my parents wanted to see what stuck with me, but I absolutely loved piano lessons and wanted to continue,” Tarling said. “It was like a snowball effect where I wanted to learn more and more. I started singing a few years later with my piano teacher. My last four years of high school I’ve been doing everything possible with music.”

Although this year has had its challenges, Tarling has been working on music through the school year and plans to study music in college, he said.

“This semester I had to deal with going to a chorus class where we aren’t allowed to sing indoors,” Tarling said. “So far all of my music stuff has been my own personal stuff and my private lessons I take and practicing for college auditions. ”

According to a statement from the National Association for Music Education, Tarling has been involved in every music opportunity offered, including chamber singers, concert band, jazz band, jazz combo, marching band, jazz choir, musical theatre and student-run a cappella ensemble “Scales of Males.”

Tarling enjoys performing, he said. Many of his friends are also involved in music programs in various departments, and he finds support from them.

“I had heard about nationals last year when my friend auditioned and got in,” Tarling said. “I wanted to audition for it, but I didn’t have too high expectations. It was weird because it wasn’t like any other audition I’d done. With this, it was a recorded audition and you had as many tries as you wanted or needed, so I was in my basement chanting the same song for an hour on end or until I felt I found a good recording.”

A record number of students auditioned for this year’s ensembles, Sheehan and Rencher said.

“I think this may have had something to do with the timing of when the audition window closed, which was early May, and the impact of the pandemic,” Rencher said. “Students had been at home learning virtually since March and were hopeful that the coronavirus would be behind us by the fall and there would be an in-person event.  Of course, that’s not how things turned out.  Regardless of the motivation, we were very excited to see so many students were interested in the National Association for Music Education All-National Honor Ensembles program …”

Because the event is virtual, students will miss personal connections and interactions together, Rencher said.

“The students will not have much of an opportunity to hear each other play their instruments or sing,” she said. “There is absolutely nothing like hearing these amazing high school musicians who all share the same passion for music coming together to create something greater than themselves. It is very hard to replicate that synergistic experience through the internet.”

Despite the setback, there will still be plenty of ways for the students to engage, Sheehan and Rencher said.

“The participants will have the opportunity to attend a virtual college fair where they can check out a variety of music schools from across the country, and they will have opportunities to have mock auditions with members of military ensembles,” they said.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: