- Cleburne Independent School District
Smith MS Student Advances in Bassoon Competition
Smith Middle School eighth grader George Alazar will be competing against some of the top bassoonists in the Dallas/Fort Worth region on Saturday.
Alazar has already hit the pinnacle for middle school musicians in being awarded first chair bassoon honors in the Texas Music Educators All-Region Band following auditions involving hundreds of students from across Region 30. But he decided to add to his music experiences in entering the 3rd Annual Bocal Majority Solo Competition, open to middle school and high school oboe, bassoon, contrabassoon and English horn players.
As a contestant in the junior division preliminary round, Alazar submitted a video of his two-minute performance of William Davis’ Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann. Last week he was notified that he had been selected as a semi-finalist in the competition. He will be reporting to Berkner High School Saturday to audition before judges. Smith Choir Director Aimee Foster served as his piano accompanist in the filming of his video entry and will be his performing ‘sidekick’ again on Saturday.
“Mr. Hiller was the one who told me about the contest,” Alazar said. “After making All-Region first chair, I wondered ‘what now?’ So I decided to enter the contest. I signed up in December and practiced whenever I could through the holidays. At first I was conflicted with the Schumann piece. I didn’t know about some of the rhythmic concepts—but now I do. I really like the music.”
“After I reviewed the video we sent, I was kind of worried,” he said. “I heard a couple of the mistakes I didn’t realize I had made. But I just kept practicing—and hoping. I was relieved and excited when I heard I would be moving to the semi-finals.”
Alazar was influenced to take band as a sixth grader after seeing his older sister, Natalie, play the flute in middle school and with the Golden Pride.
“I kind of wanted to follow her,” he said. “At first I wanted to play the flute like she did. But then Mr. Hiller showed me the bassoon and I really liked it.”
Hiller describes Alazar as a very gifted musician and one who is self-motivated. Alazar also plays the same instrument Hiller played as a middle school beginning band student.
“George is an amazingly talented student,” Hiller said. “When we met at the end of fifth grade to pick an instrument for him for sixth grade beginning band, he was successful on many of them. He left wanting to play the clarinet--and he would have made an outstanding clarinetist--but I knew he was the perfect fit for bassoon. Somehow, I convinced him to give it a try. I think I used a line that my beginning band director used on me. I wanted to play the oboe, but was placed on the bassoon. My band director told me ‘give bassoon a try for a month and if you don't like it, come back and talk to me.’ I never felt the need to change after that first month. I think I said something similar to George. He decided to try bassoon and I don’t think he's ever looked back.”
He hasn’t. The eighth grader says he and the bassoon are a good fit.
“The bassoon and I are a good pair,” he said. “I like its complexity. My parents always tell me when it comes to band, I’m very serious about it and I think the bassoon is a very serious instrument. It’s kind of quiet and much different sounding than the other instruments.”
Alazar has come a long way since the bassoon was first placed in his hands. As a seventh grade participant in All-Region try-outs, he was awarded second chair bassoon in the third band.
“I took a huge step forward this year in being first chair in the first band,” he said. “I think it’s probably due to all the practicing. At home I practice almost every day from 30 minutes to an hour. This year, I wanted to make the All-Region first band, or at least the second. I began thinking about chair placement last year and realized everyone who placed in front of me were eighth graders. I knew they would be moving on and I wanted to be the top bassoonist this year. At the All-Region auditions, I was excited. I thought I might make first or second chair. I was so happy when I saw my name at the top of the list.”
His talent, backed by his work ethic, has led Alazar to the playing and performance level reflecting the accolades he has received. He was also awarded first chair in the Invitational Honor Band involving students from Cleburne, Joshua, Brewer, Crowley, Weatherford and Granbury. Alazar is also a bit of a self-made musician, as unlike many of the bassoonists in which he competes, he doesn’t take private lessons.
“George is highly self-motivated,” Hiller said. “I'd like to take a little credit for his success, but it is truly all him. I've given him the ‘tools’ he needs to be successful, but he does all the hard work that is needed to be great. He practices diligently and accepts criticism with a desire to improve. Yes, he is talented, but he also puts in the work necessary to maintain and improve.”
Noah Taylor, who also made All-Region first chair honors as a baritone saxophonist in the Smith band, is very happy to see a fellow ‘Smithonian’ musician—and friend—recognized.
“George is great,” Taylor said. “He is really dedicated to band. He spends a lot of time practicing. He’s always very kind and encouraging. We’re good friends and I hope he wins on Saturday.”
Students chosen for the final round at the music competition will experience a live audition, as they perform before judges—and everyone in attendance.
“I wasn’t nervous at all at the try-outs for All-Region Band,” Alazar said. “I hope it will be the same for me on Saturday. Going through the audition process as many times as I have helps, I think. A live audition in front of an audience—that seems a little bit scary. I’m just going to keep practicing.”
With four years of high school ahead, the 13-year-old is not sure where he may be going with his music. He also competes on the Smith tennis team. What he does know is he enjoys music—and likes being in the band.
“Band is really fun, but you have to put a lot of effort into it,” he said. “It’s still my favorite class and subject. I’m not sure what I will do in music. I just want to keep going and see where it takes me.”
Smith Middle School eighth grader George Alazar has advanced to the semi-final round and will be competing Saturday at the 3rd Annual Bocal Majority Solo Competition, involving middle school oboe, bassoon, contrabassoon and English horn players. Smith Choir Director Aimee Foster will be serving as his piano accompanist