Kittanning Senior Musician Advances to State Band

Kittanning Senior High Students Seth Grafton, Marc Wasilko and Sarah Dunn performed during the PMEA Region Band Festival March 7-9 at Meadville High School. Wasilko was named first chair and will next move on the All-State festival in three weeks. (Photo by Dennis Burchard Photography.)

by Jonathan Weaver

Kittanning Senior Mark Wasilko is on Spring Break the rest of this week, but will quickly be unpacking his euphonium again.

Wasilko will represent Kittanning Sr. High at the PMEA All-State band festival April 17-20 at McDowell High School in Erie, Pa.

Wasilko  found out about the honor as he and two other Kittanning musicians –Sophomore Sarah Dunn and Senior Seth Grafton – auditioned on their respective instruments at the region band festival earlier this month.

It was the first time Wasilko was able to audition, but he’s not nervous so far.

“The more I prepare, the better I’m going to do. Up until now, I’ve done pretty well so I think I have a pretty-good chance of doing just as well,” Wasilko said. “There’s nothing after All-State Band this year, so I don’t have that to worry about.”

Like for choral students, All-East concerts are held only every other school year.

Named as first chair – the only one in his section of eight euphoniums that moved to the state level – he said students were told of their placement before the region band concert March 9.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Wasilko said.

Sophomore Sarah Dunn – who plays clarinet – hopes to match Wasilko’s achievement next year. Dunn was second chair on the district level, but was not chaired at the regional band concert.

It was also her first regional band experience.

“I had gone to County Band in the past and really liked the atmosphere, and I knew District Band would be about the same thing – just more competitive. I was looking forward to that,” Dunn said.

Dunn admitted she did not get to practice as much as she hoped since she was part of the ensemble during the musical stage production of “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” earlier this month, but knows exactly what to do next school year.

“I learned you have to really prepare your music and work on the hard parts – you don’t work on the parts you already know how to play (but) work on the parts you can’t play,” Dunn said. “Or else you’re not going to learn anything.”

Senior Seth Grafton, who plays French horn, attended the regional festival in back-to-back years – during 11th and 12th grade – but also did not chair in his section.

He said a lot of practice went into his performance that evening.

“I prepared on my own for about a month, and then at the festival, we had a day-and-a-half of straight rehearsal,” Grafton said.

The final senior high band concert of the school year – and last one during Wasilko and Grafton’s high school careers – will be held Wednesday, April 24.

Grafton and Wasilko agreed that it will be a ‘bittersweet’ occasion.

“It’s kind of bittersweet: it’s sad that it’s the last concert, but it’s exciting to graduate,” Grafton said.

Grafton is undecided on his future plans, but hopes to continue to play the French horn after graduation in a community atmosphere or at church.

Wasilko will take his euphonium with him to Grove City College (in Mercer County) as he pursues a major in music education. Grove City was his first school choice and was accepted in December.

He said he looks forward to learning new instruments associated with his career path, including the bassoon and saxophone.

All three students have played in the band since they were introduced to musical instruments in fourth grade.