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Rifle High School band selected to perform in state festival at Colorado State University

Rifle High School band students have a discussion and prepare in the warm-up area just before their performance at Colorado State University on Tuesday.
Submitted / Jeff Chmay

What’s considered the equivalent of winning a state title for music, the Rifle High School Band was among a select group of schools to perform at a top tier concert at Colorado State University in Fort Collins on Tuesday.

The Colorado Bandmasters Association State Festival features just 36 bands selected from hundreds that competed in regionals that took place in February.

Rifle was also just one of four rural schools, with less than 1,000 total students, to play Tuesday.



Rifle senior and tuba player Taryn Davis said the honor was unexpected.

“We’re from a small town,” she said Wednesday. “We don’t have a lot of resources. People in Denver get to go to private lessons.”



Like many other extracurricular organizations and activities, the Rifle High School band overcame plenty of adversity brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Davis said practicing social distancing meant shifting around schedules. Instead of performing one hour each day at school, it was two hours every other day.

“That really affected our rehearsals,” she said.

Meanwhile, the 56 Rifle band students were practicing with instruments covered in masks until the requirement was lifted at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, Rifle senior and clarinet player Eric Watkins said.

On Wednesday, Watkins praised Rifle band instructor Jeff Chmay for helping out band students whenever needed and maintaining the course.

“To an extent there’s always more to do, but being able to go to the state festival was a big moment at least,” he said. “That was a great thing to do for your senior year.”

The Rifle High School band performs on stage at Colorado State University's Griffin Concert Hall on Tuesday.
Submitted / Jeff Chmay

Chmay said his students also had to overcome the challenge of getting everyone on the same page early in the school year. With just six seniors and a rapport limited with underclassmen due to less time spent with one another, they shattered any sense of immaturity and worked harder to harmonize over time.

Some students hadn’t played an instrument in two to three years, Chmay said.

“It’s a really huge accomplishment for the kids to be chosen,” he said.

Looking to the future of Rifle High School band, Watkins has all the confidence in the world.

“I mean, we don’t have instrument masks anymore,” he said. “It’s gonna go well. We have a lot of really good players, and I think they’re going to succeed more next year.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@citizentelegram.com.


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