by Natalie Maronas and Nathania Mullings
The high-hat maintained the quick swing feel of the audition piece as drumsticks flew across the drumset. Years of practice led up to the big day of auditions for senior Hayden Miller as judges rated the cleanliness, consistency and dynamics of his playing. With countless other drummers waiting outside of the room for their turn to play, Miller would stand out with his level of experience.
Being the only percussionist admitted, Miller made a major step forward in his drumming skills by making it into the All State Jazz Band. Even among other musicians in West Broward and across Florida, Miller’s experience and practice made him fitting to perform for the competitive group at the Florida Music Education Association Conference on Jan. 10 in Tampa.
“It wasn’t nervous going in or leaving the audition,” Miller said. “I was very confident because I felt I went into the audition very prepared from the practice I put in.”
Miller has been playing for seven years and currently serves as the West Broward Performance Ensemble’s percussion captain. Adept with the drumset from experience in the school’s jazz band, he has built familiarity with many styles of classic swing and latin jazz. In turn, auditioning for the All State band offered an opportunity for him to broaden his musical horizons.
“The audition required many different playing styles such as samba, rock, funk, swing and bossa nova, but I felt ready from pieces I play at home and for the school’s band performances,” Miller said.
With audition information and materials sent out as early as May, Miller began his rigorous practice over the summer. Having to perform two swing etudes, a funk etude and an improvised piece in front of judges at the Florida Christian School, he practiced an hour a day to ensure his spot in the band. Confident in his abilities after the quick audition, his rigor did not cease even after being chosen as he now works to learn the pieces at home for his rehearsals two days before the conference.
“I felt very prepared for the audition material because I had played through it all summer long,” Miller said. “However, it was a great deal of information to learn so it was definitely a challenge.”
This recent success will also prove to benefit Miller in the future as he aims to continue percussion and musical performance outside of high school. In practicing and joining more elite jazz bands, he wishes to rise in the ranks as a professional drummer and catch the attention of everyone in the gigs he plays at.
“Making it definitely boosted my confidence in my abilities, but it also humbled me,” Miller said. “There are still very talented musicians waiting to take my spot at any second, so I feel there are always ways that any musician can improve every aspect of their playing.”
After many long years of practice, Miller has made it among the higher ranks as he accomplished what many other drummers were unable to reach. With this, his drumming experience will only continue to expand from here.
“This experience will show me the true meaning of music and it’s main purpose: to bring people joy and entertainment,” Miller said. “Playing in jazz band is very fun and I’m so glad I get to be a part of this incredible ensemble.”