Setting the tempo

Rider percussionist earns first chair all-state


Sheridan Allen

Senior Ana Alvarez practicing in the band hall for her solo.

Sandra Le, Staff Writer

When Ana Alvarez finished her last etude, she walked away from the audition room knowing she’d done her best. 

But Alvarez didn’t have high expectations when it came to chair placements. She knew how skilled her competition would be. 

Weeks later, when Alvarez discovered she’d become a first chair all-state percussionist, the senior was surprised to say the least. 

“It’s hard to think like that when you don’t know what your competition is going to be like,” Alvarez said. “I knew that I had worked hard and done my very best, and you can only assure that everyone else is going to do the same.” 

The auditions begin with a snare drum etude, followed by two different mallet etudes that are played on 4.3-octave marimbas. After these, the percussionists play a two-mallet (meaning two mallets in each hand) etude and end with a timpani etude.

In a regular year, it would take hours upon hours of waiting for everyone to get through the percussion auditions. However, with the COVID restrictions this year, each audition across all instruments was recorded and sent in to be judged.

This presented its own problems, however. As one can imagine, an audition sounds drastically different in person than it does when it is recorded. Finding the right room with the right acoustics and acquiring the right microphone all played huge roles in submitting the perfect audition.

“The experience was both more as well as less nerve wracking at different times, because being able to record the material as many times as you need is really beneficial in getting your nerves out and getting your absolute best sent in,” Alvarez said. “I felt I really had to work to be as polished as possible. Regardless, the experience was just as rewarding.”

Alvarez has come a long way. Though she participated in the audition process all four years in high school, this is the first time Alvarez has made all-state. Not since John Dawson four years ago has there been a Rider first chair percussionist. 

“Going through the process in the past, especially my sophomore year and junior year, really put how hard you have to work to achieve the goal into perspective,” Alvarez said. “I think because of this, being able to call myself an all-stater does feel a little dreamlike.” 

While the outcome was worthwhile, Alvarez said the entire process was a great experience, no matter how she would have placed. 

“It’s so rewarding because you improve not only as a musician, but as a performer, because it naturally puts you in that setting. Because of this I would have been proud and happy to grow no matter what.” Alvarez said. “Ultimately, knowing that I have achieved this honor is extremely gratifying, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have it.”