Seven local high school students recently were invited to perform in band and choir represented by Ohio's top scholastic music talent.
Six members of the Pickerington High School North Marching Panthers on Feb. 9 performed as part of the Ohio Music Education Association's All-State Band.
Additionally, a member of Pickerington High School Central's chorale also was selected to sing in the OMEA's All-State Choir.
The selections, according to local teachers, place the students among the best band performers and singers in Ohio.
At North, seniors Ryan Garner (percussion), Nathaniel Hang (percussion), Yiki Okabe (clarinet), Kyle Planck (percussion) and Alec Priest (saxophone), and junior Casey Miller (percussion) were chosen for the All-State Band. It was the second year both Hang and Planck were selected.
"Students are selected via a recorded audition from a pool of approximately 750 applicants," said Marc Parulekar, PHS North band director.
"Each student performs a solo and some very challenging etudes -- or exercises -- on their instrument," Parulekar said.
"It is extremely difficult to earn membership in the OMEA All-State Band.
Approximately 4 to 10 students are selected for each instrument and recognized as the finest high school musicians in the state of Ohio.
"This honor is on par with being selected for all-state in football or basketball," Parulekar said.
At Central, Asha Toure, a senior, was selected to the OMEA's All-State Choir.
Out of more than 400 students who sought inclusion in the choir, Toure was one of just160 selected.
"It's a very big honor to be selected because there are so many students auditioning," said Heather Wilkins, PHS Central vocal music director. "(Toure's) a really talented singer who has a very big voice.
"She has a very mature voice as a singer," Wilkins said.
"She's a great student and she works very hard."
Two North students selected to the All-State Band said performing with Ohio's top scholastic musicians was an experience they likely won't forget.
"When I was selected, I was struck with awe, I guess," said Priest, who played both alto and soprano saxophone with the band.
"The amount of talent in the band was just overwhelming," Priest said.
"It was frightening at first, just because you're not used to something of that magnitude, but it was very enjoyable. I'm sure I'll look back on it and enjoy it even more."
Priest currently is considering attending college at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, the Ohio State University School of Music and Capital University's Conservatory of Music.
He plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in music education with an eye on obtaining a master's degree in music composition.
Classmate Kyle Planck plans to pursue a degree in chemical engineering from Notre Dame, but he said experiences like playing in the All-State Band once again proved to him that he'll always look for opportunities to continue music as a hobby.
"Being selected is always an honor because there are so many people who try out for it throughout the state," Planck said. "It's pretty awesome. You just see what these people are capable of doing.
"It's pretty inspiring going through the whole thing and seeing how it all comes together," he said.
"It was definitely rewarding, and it gives you a new appreciation for music."
Parulekar and Wilkins said skill and dedication are what it takes to be selected to the band and choir, and they noted Pickerington's high schools have become known for their top musical talent.
In addition to being selected to the All-State Band, Parlukelar said, the members of the Marching Panthers also recently earned 98 superior ratings and 37 excellent ratings at the OMEA's solo and ensemble contest.
Wilkins, who took over the Central Vocal Music Department this year following John Long's retirement, noted that Toure also received a superior rating for a solo performed at the solo and ensemble contest.