Playing an instrument is about more than making beautiful music.

"Aside from the fact that it is a huge challenge to play any of the instruments, students learn valuable life lessons in their music programs; many lessons they may not realize until they're adults," said Richard M. Teitelman Middle School's Band Director Bethany Wiberg, who has been the band director at Teitelman for the past five years. Each year, Wiberg has nominated a handful of her advanced-level students to audition for the South Jersey Band & Orchestra Directors Association's All South Jersey Junior High Honors Band.

The South Jersey Band and Orchestra Directors Association, SJBODA, has been putting together the local musical all-stars since 1947. The junior high school component of the program was added in the mid-1970s, and the inaugural All South Jersey Junior High Band concert was held in 1978. More than 300 students from six counties in South Jersey - Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, and Salem - auditioned for a seat in this year's Junior High honors ensemble, which presented a concert on March 3.

Of those students who auditioned this year, 184 were selected, five from Cape May County schools. They are Richard M. Teitelman Middle School students Bridget Martin, French horn; Kelly Henderson, tuba; Shevi Calfine, bass clarient; and Janel Concepcion, flute; and Upper Township Middle School student Erik Larson, trumpet. The annual audition is open to advanced sixth-graders and seventh- and eighth-graders. Conception and Larson are in the seventh grade and the others are in the eighth grade. Both Henderson and Larson were chosen to play first chair, an even higher accomplishment.

The audition requirements included memorizing scales, learning a lengthy solo on their instrument, although only a randomly selected, small portion was asked for at auditions, and sight-reading music.

"It takes a lot of work, confidence and, most of all bravery, to even consider auditioning for this ensemble," Wiberg said. "I tell my students all the time that they won't learn if they don't try, and that's all I ask of them."

Erik Larson's mother, Karen, said being accepted into the band has inspired Erik to push himself even further.

"It's really lit a fire," she said. "He's motivated and excited. It's really such a great opportunity for these kids."

Teitelman student Martin was chosen to perform in the honors band concert for the past two years. Fifteen students auditioned for French horn this year and 11 made it.

Martin said her experiences in the honors band have inspired her to push herself to new limits.

"I learned a lot from the honors band because there were a lot of kids who were a lot better than me," she said."It just helped me learn what I can do to get better, and it gave me more confidence."

Her classmate, Henderson, just began playing the instrument last year while in the seventh grade. Eleven tuba players auditioned for the band and 10 made it.

"I asked (Henderson) to amuse me one day and pick up the tuba and when she picked it up and played it, she said 'I'm a tuba player aren't I?" Wiberg said. "She's definitely taken off and blown me away."

Concepcion is Wiberg's first flute player to make the honors band. Sixty-nine flute players auditioned and 20 made it.

"I think maybe it can help me go to college," Concepcion said of playing the instrument.

Wiberg said she's proud of her students for making the honors band, but she's even prouder that they all tried and didn't give up.

"All of my students who auditioned overcame obstacles and gained just a bit more confidence in themselves," she said. "Yes, I need them to play the right notes, but what I care most about is 'What are they getting out of it?' They're portraying emotion through music."

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