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Pa. student selected for national honor band and chorus

February 25, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - A few weeks after high school graduation this spring, Rachael Stepler will pack her clarinet and take off for a three-week musical tour of Europe.

Recently selected for the prestigious Sound of America Honor Band and Chorus, the 17-year-old Greencastle-Antrim High School senior, along with about 150 other band members, will give 10 performances at concert halls throughout Europe.

The students will visit Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France and Luxembourg.

"There will be sight-seeing during the day and performances at night," she said.

According to Sound of America's Web site, www.soundofamerica.org, the tour enables talented students from throughout the nation to represent America in a positive manner as they perform before large European audiences.

Band and chorus members will have four days of intensive rehearsal and orientation at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., beginning July 4. Clyde M. Barr, past state president of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association and president of North American Music Festivals, is tour coordinator and conductor of the Honor Band.

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"I'm looking forward to the performances," Rachael said. "Europe is going to be cool, and it will be cool to perform there, too. I'm excited about going to Disneyland Paris. My family and I went to Disney World in Florida during Christmas vacation, and I want to compare the two."

To apply to Sound of America, Rachael had to get three recommendations, fill out an application and obtain a passport. She was exempt from having to submit an audition tape because she qualified for state band last year.

Rachael began playing the clarinet in fifth grade and advanced to first chair by seventh grade.

"I really started practicing then because I was competing with eighth-graders," she said.

She still occupies the first chair in the clarinet section.

Samuel Forney, director of the Greencastle-Antrim High School Band, said Rachael has natural talent, but also works hard.

"She's one of the best clarinet players we've ever had at Greencastle," he said. "Only one other clarinet player has gone to all-state since I've been here, and Rachael has gone further by going to all-Eastern."

Forney has been band director at the school for 22 years.

Rachael has been concentrating on her solo work, most of which is classical music, to prepare for district band. She takes weekly private lessons and tries to practice an hour a day.

Both her parents, Larry and Patricia Stepler, majored in music in college. Her mother is an elementary school music teacher and a former church choir director, and her father is band director at McConnellsburg (Pa.) Junior/Senior High School.

Rachael said she grew up listening to her mother's church music and her father's percussion ensemble.

Music is not Rachael's only interest. She is an assistant to the instructors at Clarissa's School of Performing Arts in Greencastle, where she takes acrobatics, ballet, tap, jazz and pointe.

Recently accepted at Penn State's main campus as a pre-med major, Rachael said she is "fairly positive" she will go into pediatrics. She plans to minor in music, and try out for marching band and wind ensemble.

Students selected for Sound of America's 27-year-old chorus and band are responsible for the cost of the trip.

Rachael is asking churches and civic clubs to let her perform for them, and may approach local businesses for donations. She estimates she will need about $3,800, plus spending money.

A fund for donations has been established at First National Bank of Greencastle.

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