Southmoreland seniors earn spots on All-State Band

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

Southmoreland senior Elaina Kauffman remembers an inauspicious and, as she put it, “embarrassing” moment as an eighth-grader in her initial season with the Scotties marching band.

On the field playing the trombone during a football game halftime performance, Kauffman's slide hit a senior marching in front of her in the head, she recalls, chuckling.

“It didn't disrupt our performance, and we just kept playing and marching, but at halftime he said, ‘Was that you?' ” she said. “I said ‘Yes.' I was really embarrassed.”

Kauffman's embarrassing episode is a distant memory, and her most recent performance is the exclamation point on her successful scholastic music career.

At the PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) all-state concert held in Erie from April 17-20, Kauffman ranked fourth overall (out of 12 students) in the trombone section of the concert band.

Seated not far from Kauffman on the all-state stage was fellow senior and principal percussionist at Southmoreland, Taylor Gephart, who ranked fourth overall (out of nine students) in the percussion section of the concert band.

As a sixth-grader with an eye on eventually joining the Scotties drumline, Gephart was out of luck when it came to the drums.

“They already had 18 drummers, and mallets was the only instrument left,” Gephart said, laughing. “So I started with mallets that year.”

Ironically, Gephart's dedication with the mallets more than paid off in achieving the all-state honor.

“I'm actually the only percussionist remaining from that group,” she added, chuckling.

“Both girls have worked diligently this year and throughout their educational and musical careers,” said Jamie Gore, Southmoreland director of bands. “I'm very proud of the poise they've shown through this rigorous process.”

In her seven years at Southmoreland, eight of Gore's students have been selected to represent the school and district as all-state selections, including one student selected twice for the honor.

With a desire to be part of her elementary school band, Kauffman opted for the trombone in the fifth grade, primarily because she was not comfortable with her other musical choice, the clarinet. A four-year trombonist with the band, Kauffman, who plans to attend Seton Hill University in Greensburg in the fall to pursue a degree in Music Therapy, also served as drum major for marching and pep bands.

“Normally, you do not see a lot of girls playing the trombone, but at states about half the trombonists were girls,” she said. “When they called my name at regionals, I was absolutely thrilled to be part of the all-state band.”

According to Gore, Kauffman's dedication with the trombone reaped its rewards.

Knowing she wanted to continue her music career in college, Kauffman researched different music programs and discovered music therapy, used in hospices and to help improve social skills in autistic children.

“As a musician, Elaina has grown immensely since our paths crossed five years ago,” Gore said. “I've seen a sweet young lady blossom into a confident, hard-working, talented musician and a wonderful person. Elaina's love of music is quite evident, as well as her consideration for others.”

Kauffman, principal chair trombonist at Southmoreland, has been selected as a member of the Fay West Honors Band, Westmoreland County Band, PMEA District and Region bands, District Orchestra and Westmoreland Youth Symphony Orchestra Philharmonic. She was named an Outstanding Young Citizen of Westmoreland County.

Among her extensive music memories is her experience with the PMEA Honors Jazz concert at Seton Hill in December, where the guest director was Mike Davis, trombonist for the Rolling Stones.

“He was so good,” beamed Kauffman, who plans on becoming a freelance trombonist as well. “His tone was absolutely beautiful. Every single note was a gem. That's my goal.”

As principal percussionist with mallets at Southmoreland, Gephart has grown “in all areas since we began working together five years ago, first as her marching band instructor and then in ensembles and music classes,” said Gore. “Her musical ability has grown immensely, but, more importantly, I've seen Taylor grow to be an even more outstanding individual. She goes out of her way to be a positive influence on others and is an outstanding role model. I'm so proud of the young lady and musician that she has become.”

A member of Southmoreland's Jazz, Concert, Pep and marching bands, Gephart, who plans to study Music Education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which happens to be Gore's alma mater, to embark on a teaching career, has been selected for the PMEA Region Band, All-State Concert Band, PMEA Honors and District bands, WCMEA County and Fay-West Honors band, and performs with the Westmoreland Symphonic Winds.

Gephart, also a member of the Southmoreland Chorus, admits to being surprised upon her selected for the Pennsylvania All-State Band, but credits Gore for her success.

“I would not have gone where I have had it not been for Mrs. Gore,” Gephart said. “She is a wonderful teacher, very inspiring. She changed me as a person regarding improving my music and helping develop me into a leader.”

Les Harvath is a freelance writer.

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