Dedication, Hard Work Pay Off in All-State Recognition

Mikayla Flockhart
Mikayla Flockhart

By Maggie Dale

The dark, rich sound of the clarinet is what characterizes it amongst the array of other instruments.  It plays a critical part in the instrumentation of a concert band. Yet, middle schoolers starting to play usually sound more like, “tweet, tweet, SQUAWK!” Mikayla Flockhart was an average middle school clarinetist, initially more interested in the flute but finding the clarinet a little more suited to her.  “It seems crazy to me that I could have ever wanted to play a different instrument because clarinet seems to fit me so perfectly; I would never switch to another instrument if I was given the chance,” Flockhart said.

Flockhart has made a lot of progress in her playing in the last seven years.  It has been a long haul for the Mount Vernon senior, a journey that has had many ups and downs. “Music seems like a lot of time, pain, and heartache, and truth be told it is; however, music brings me a great joy that I haven’t found in any other activity that I am involved in,” Flockhart said. “To achieve this level of excellence has required a great deal of time out of my life, lots of money for lessons and a better clarinet, and too many tears shed.”  Last week her journey brought her to her senior year All-State Music Festival auditions.

At the auditions, she was up against a lot of strong competition. Mount Vernon is regionally in the most competitive of the six districts auditioning, because it includes Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, and there were only 14 spots for clarinets in the district. Flockhart set her sights high, wanting to achieve not just a place at the festival, but to be selected for either orchestra or the first part in the band, with the higher and more difficult music and the “cool melody.”   

According to Flockhart, the time she spends practicing depends on what events or concerts are coming up. Typically, she practices for about an hour each day. Prior to honor bands and concerts she practices close to two hours a day, and for All-State auditions, she will practice for almost twice that length of time. “All this practicing is outside of any scheduled band rehearsals, so it can get to be a lot of hours put towards making myself better at my instrument,” Flockhart said.

Mikayla Flockhart poses with her parents at senior night Oct. 14. Photo by Paige Zaruba.
Mikayla Flockhart poses with her parents at senior night Oct. 14. Photo by Paige Zaruba.

This was Flockhart’s third time trying out for All-State.  She didn’t qualify the first time. She described attending the All-State Festival last year as being an eye-opening experience that made her become very aware of where she stood among other serious musicians who possessed the same talent and passion that she did. Although at the time the experience made her feel self-conscious about her skill level, it also sparked a competitive flame in her, making her want to be the best she could possibly be, and she met her goal.

“Being first clarinet at All-State [this year] has been the greatest achievement of both my playing career and quite possibly my high school career because it showed that my drive and hard work finally paid off,” Flockhart said.

“Though band isn’t my only passion, it is the one I have given the most time, effort, and patience to because it isn’t just a natural gift to me. To finally reap the benefit of my efforts, after spending years striving to become the very best at my instrument, is an invaluable achievement.” 

Flockhart said that in middle school, she didn’t really fit in. She was a part of band and choir, but didn’t often identify with those activities, as they weren’t what was considered “cool.” However, her eighth grade year and the summer of her freshman year were milestones in the development of the person Flockhart is today. “It was then that I really began to view music in a different light and allowed myself to become passionate about it, and from there everything took off,” Flockhart said. “Having all these new experiences only heightened my growing enthusiasm for music, and I couldn’t imagine what I would be doing now had I not allowed myself to become invested in band.”

Music has even helped shape Flockhart’s personality. “I have become a very competitive person due to music because I am always striving to be the very best out of everyone I come head-to-head with. I am very precise and detail-oriented because it is the small nuances in music that truly make it into something beautiful; however, I have learned to carry these traits into my daily life so I can achieve excellence in all things that I am passionate about,” she said. Music has driven her to come out of her comfort zone, and to grow as a leader; all of this has helped her learn a great deal of responsibility.

This talented and dedicated clarinetist sums it up by saying, “My eighth grade year was a time for a lot of transitions in my life, and one of those was my growing passion for music.  Through this growth of my love for music I have learned to value things that may be contrary to what society values.  I have put forth the time, effort, and money to excel at music, so even though things like choir, art, and theater aren’t things I want to be a part of I still value and appreciate those art forms.  Music has given me the mentality to value all activities and appreciate those who devote their lives towards their activity, just as I do to mine.”