The Path to First Chair

Junior Matthew Barnes earns first chair oboe at the All-State Band audition.

Lauren VerBrugge and TaNayia Broadus

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Saturday, December 2nd, junior Matthew Barnes walked into Hickman High School, ready for his All-State Band audition. Working up to this point, Barnes put in a lot of time and effort in order to bring his A-game to the audition. Later that day, to his surprise, he had earned himself First Chair Oboe- making him the best oboe player in Missouri as of 2017-18.

“Basically the music sets that you audition on are in a pattern, like in a rotation, on a four year cycle,” Barnes said. “You can get the music whenever you want to. So most people typically start preparing over the summer, and as it gets closer to auditions people start practicing more and more- that’s what I did, I came in early every morning to practice.”

Competition can be unpredictable, as a new round of musicians arrive to compete every year.

“Most of the time you don’t know what your competition is going to be like, so you don’t know how much to prepare, and you just keep working at it,” Barnes said. “A lot of times it’s hard to find stuff to improve on. That’s the big challenge- that’s what private lessons help with. I think a lot of people who make all-state take private lessons, which is what helps a lot.”

Barnes has played oboe for 5 years now and has auditioned for all state for several years as well. After earning himself 2nd chair oboe in all district band in the 2016-2017 and 1st chair oboe in the 15-16 honorable mention band. Despite these years of experience, Barnes was surprised when he heard the results.

“It was a pretty good feeling,” Barnes said. “I wasn’t really expecting it- you’re not really supposed to say ‘I was expecting it’… which I wasn’t, but when they called my name on the announcements, it threw me off, it was a pretty good feeling.”

Barnes is already planning ahead for auditions his senior year and has a few goals in mind.

“Hopefully, I’ll get to keep my spot,” Barnes said. “Because all four of the oboists that will be playing in all-state are all juniors, and they’re all going to be auditioning again next year. So the challenge is going to be holding my spot.”

Barnes and the All-State group will be performing next at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Lake of the Ozarks on their 4-day trip in January.