Julia Spigai
Ketchikan High School senior Julia Spigai stands for a portrait at Kayhi on Monday. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek
Ketchikan High School senior Julia Spigai is the only Alaska student named this year to the All National Honor Ensemble.
Spigai, who plays the clarinet and tenor saxophone, also has held seats in the All Southeast Honor Band (encompassing communities in Southeast Alaska), All State Honor Band (including students from around the state) and the All Northwest Honor Band (which features students in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington). 
Being a member of the All State Honor Band is a requirement for those hoping to audition for a chair in the national group. 
The All National Honor Ensemble is managed by the National Association For Music Education. This year, there are 210 members in the band, hailing from all around the country. Due to COVID-19, the band will not perform together in person. Instead, performers recorded their pieces, and the clips will be timed and spliced together to make a complete show. Auditions also were held virtually.
Participants in the band will be playing two songs in the final recording — one is the song "Momento," which Spigai described as a slow song, while the other song is titled "Early Light."
"It's very interesting alone, like, having any sort of conference on Zoom, but then to add instruments to that is very difficult," Spigai told the Daily News by phone during a recent interview. 
"And each student was given an assignment to record those songs individually using a track, using a metronome," Spigai explained. "And we would submit the recording of ourselves to the NAfME organization. And if we were all in time, if every individual's recording was in sync perfectly with our little metronome, then they're going to find a way to combine all of our individual recordings into one recording." 
Spigai auditioned for the band in September.
"This is a very elite band," Spigai said. "So my chances right off the bat were pretty slim, as anyone's chances are, but I had just kept growing throughout all my four years of high school. My freshman year, I made Southeast honor band. My sophomore year, I made All State Alaska honor band. Third year, All Northwest. And then my senior year, I thought it was kind of just like a game. 'Well, why don't we try to make it into the All National band?' And I was lucky enough to be accepted and I just really wanted to continue to grow." 
Like the final performance, the auditions also happened virtually.
Those who were auditioning were assigned a single sheet of untitled music, with no composer attributed to it. 
"And that was made so that we couldn't look up a recording," Spigai explained. "The music was very difficult and it was very detailed, and (there were) a lot of articulations and rhythms that were very complex."
The music itself was one part of the audition — students had to complete the piece on camera, with another video rolling in the background.
"So they could be very certain that it was me playing without any prior recording," Spigai noted. 
Spigai learned she had been accepted into the band in October — she said she "immediately ran to her mother" that morning and showed her the email.
"And we both were silent for about a minute," she said. "And then we just bursted into laughter because we were so, so happy and very excited for what was to come." 
"I was overjoyed," Spigai recalled. "I couldn't fathom the fact that I've been accepted into this band. I've had many experiences participating in local, state and Northwest festivals that have been fantastic, and making into this national band just solidified my dedication to music. And it's really showed me that what I've been doing these past four years has paid off, and it is a true reflection of my dedication to music and my love for it." 
Speaking separately Lenhard also noted that during a recent virtual event held for the band participants, students heard from John Williams, who composed the movie scores for films such as "Star Wars," "Jaws," "Jurassic Park" and "Raiders of the Lost Arc." 
"That was exciting to hear," Lenhard said. "And it was a surprise that he was going to be there. And she got to you, know, be motivated from that fine composer and conductor."