Milford High senior Deja Neal joined several of her classmates for a chance to express their musical talents by performing with the Kent County Senior Honors Band (KCSHB) at Smyrna High School on Saturday, February 1.
Mrs. Christine Smith, MHS band director, personally nominated Neal and fellow MHS band members Ryan Wolfe, Dawn Given, Ali VanVorst, Nick Sobota, Josh Layton, Maura West, Hunter Bradford, Jerome Harris and Valeria Coverdale. They practiced with other local high school students also nominated to the Kent County band prior to Saturday’s performance.
“I look at students who go above and beyond in our band,” said Mrs. Smith, who can only nominate about eight or nine students to the county band. She said that she normally follows a procedure when nominating players for KCSHB which includes looking at students who have been in Kent County bands before or have tried out for All-State.
Neal has certainly gained invaluable experience since beginning to play the clarinet as a fifth grader. Due to her exceptional skills, Neal has had the privilege to participate in Kent County Honors Band for five years and All State for four years.
According to Smith, Neal has “an amazingly pure talent.” She complemented Neal by describing her as a natural musician who is very strong and technical and knows how to effectively practice tough sections of music.
Neal was also accepted into All-State this current year on clarinet, while fellow MHS senior Ali VanVorst will join her, playing the French horn. All-State, an exclusive band ensemble, requires a challenging audition, which according to Smith takes several months of preparation. Musicians must prepare a solo, know scales up to at least five sharps and five flats and sight-read a random piece of music at the audition.
Although Neal plans on majoring in biology at the University of Delaware, she would like to minor in music while also participating in the UD band program. “Music is just important. It is fun and something you can do when you are not good at sports, like me,” said Neal jokingly. She also commented that she enjoys music because it improves the mind and has the ability to make people smarter.