Building a family around band

Sophomore Reilly Toppenberg shares their love for playing the clarinet, along with hopes of becoming section leader

Amelia Laing, Guest Contributor

A nervous energy moved through the musicians of the school band as they all filed into the gymnasium, nearly ready to play. Sophomore Reilly Toppenberg was exhausted yet excited to play in the marching band again.

They had been at school for over nine hours already that day, first attending their classes and then preparing to play that week’s home basketball game. As they walked with their other band members, they held their clarinet tightly and wondered if they could make it through the performance without playing any wrong notes or rhythms.

Toppenberg had practiced each of the songs so many times that they felt completely confident about most of the difficult rhythms. There was only one place where they were still slightly unsure.

The school’s band is extremely important to Toppenberg, in large part because of the band’s community.

“Even if it’s sometimes stressful it’s always fun because everyone who’s in it is just super cool to hang around with,” Toppenberg said.

They also added that there isn’t much that they don’t like about the school band. Band, along with being on the swim team, is one of Toppenberg’s enjoyed hobbies.

“Band is a really fun community that I’m really glad I get to be a part of,” sophomore Hazel Hartman said. “It’s kind of like a big family that you just kind of get to make music with and go and do fun things with.”

Hartman and Toppenberg have known each other since they were both in first grade and the fact that they are both in band has strongly influenced their friendship.

“Since we’re both in band, I definitely see them a whole lot more than I would have,” Hartman said. “I think without band we definitely would have grown apart a lot more.”

Though Toppenberg had known Hartman long before high school, they explained that they met a many of their other friends, whom they have lunch with, are in band, as well.

“We all have the same connection. It’s like ‘you’re in band, I’m in band, now we have something to talk about,’” they said.

Toppenberg has been playing their clarinet since elementary school and has no plans of stopping any time soon.

“My first grade teacher played clarinet and that was my reasoning in fourth grade,” they said about why they chose to start playing. “I was like ‘she plays it; I should play it.’”

They have only ever played clarinet but are open to playing another instrument someday.

“I’d probably end up doing bass clarinet because it’s pretty much the same as clarinet, just lower. I’d probably either do that or saxophone,” they said.

If they were to give an incoming freshman musician advice, it would be to not worry about band.

“Band is a whole learning experience,” Toppenberg said. “It’s like, you’re going to mess up. You’re not expected to be perfect.”

Toppenberg participated in the band at Whitman Middle School and continued practicing during the pandemic.

“I had to do online band in eighth grade and that was not fun cause I really wanted to quit after that,” they said.

At the start of high school, Toppenberg’s mom strongly encouraged them to continue playing clarinet.

“She played saxophone all through high school and she was like ‘you need to take band freshman year, and then if you want to quit, you’re allowed to quit,’” they said.

Band is a really fun community that I’m really glad I get to be a part of. It’s kind of like a big family that you get to make music with [along with doing] fun things.

— Hazel Hartman

They indeed did not quit and they are even considering continuing playing their instrument after they graduate high school.

“I kind of want to do a college marching band,” Toppenberg said. “I don’t know if I’d major in music but I definitely want to keep doing some form of music or band after high school.”

Next summer they plan to participate in ‘All City’, a district wide band for high school students who want to participate in additional band activities.

“You go, and you learn, and you get taught by people who play for the UW marching band,” Toppenberg said. “They do a ton of parades and shows.”

They are also hoping to be selected as the clarinet section leader next year.

“They’re in charge of organizing the whole section, so if I was section leader, I’d be in charge of organizing all the clarinets,” Toppenberg said.

They explained that there are things which only clarinets participate in at pep games and it is the section leader’s job to teach those things to the new freshmen.

“We’re also in charge of organizing sectionals which is where all the clarinets get together and learn how to play our marching band music or homecoming music,” Toppenberg said.

This year, they have signed up to play at all basketball games in the hopes of becoming a future section leader, which led to them staying late after school.

All thoughts about possible mistakes left their mind as they lined up with their fellow band members in front of the excitable crowd. Loud cheers erupted from the stands as a basketball player makes a shot. Toppenberg raised their clarinet and along with the rest of their supportive musician friends and classmates, as they began to play.