Julia Spigai

Ketchikan High School student Julia Spigai has been accepted into the All Northwest Honor Band, and will participate in a virtual series of workshops for the 2021 All Northwest Honor Festival.

The All Northwest Honor Band includes student musicians from eight states, Spigai explained during a Monday afternoon interview with the Daily News. The Kayhi junior is the one student from Southeast Alaska in the band this year.

Spigai has played the clarinet since sixth-grade, and began playing the tenor saxophone in seventh grade.

"I come from a long line of musicians and I've always just had a really great love for music and instrumental activities," she said.

It almost was expected of Spigai to learn to play music, she explained — Spigai's mother, Deb, played in Kayhi bands as a student, and her sister, Yvonna, played the clarinet in Kayhi bands for three years. Her uncle also is a long-time trumpet player.

"But I also found a lot of joy in the band and playing in general," she noted.

Spigai explained that "All Northwest is a very selective thing and that takes a lot of practice and prep work."

Student musicians accepted into the All Northwest Honor Band must also have been previously accepted into their state honor bands. Spigai has been a member of Alaska's honor band since her sophomore year. She also is a member of the All Southeast Honor Band.

"I think All Northwest was just another tier as I've grown through my high school career," Spigai said.

The audition process for all three of those bands is different, with the process of applying for All Northwest being the hardest.

The process of auditioning for Alaska's state honor band involves learning and performing the pieces of music assigned to the applicant.

"It was pretty basic, there wasn't a ton of steps that you had to follow," Spigai said. "It was just they would give you music that you had to learn in advance."

And since Spigai was a member of the Alaska state band, "I became eligible to apply for the All Northwest band," she said.

But the process was still challenging and highly selective, Spigai noted.

"It just kind of gets a little more tedious every round that you audition for," Spigai said. "But in the end it was all worth it."

She said that her drive to audition came from self-motivation, as well as support from her family and the music department at Kayhi.

Additionally, "There's the pressure of college admissions," she explained. "And I do try to get as many accolades as possible to not only look good to college admissions officers but also to reassure myself that I am a good instrumentalist. And I believe that no matter what activity you're in, you should try to excel in whatever it is, and you should try to not only be a member of it, but to teach the other people around you."

And with her acceptance into the All Northwest Honor Band, Spigai also will participate in the annual All Northwest Honor Festival.

"And typically, this festival is held in Spokane, Washington, and hundreds of kids gather together and it's a really great festival," Spigai said. "But because of COVID, they weren't allowed to host that big of a group."

And so the festival instead will be presented as a three-day series of workshops with collegiate and high school-level music instructors, beginning on Saturday and running through Monday.

"They're going to have guest speakers and clinicians visiting from all over the Northwest and a few collegiate professors from colleges on the East Coast," Spigai explained. "And I think that will be a really good experience for many musicians in the festival."

"I'm really looking forward to collaborating with fellow musicians and getting a lot of input from these professors and music instructors," she said.

Spigai explained that she was eager to work closely with professional musicians and experienced professors, particularly those who play the clarinet.

"I'm just really excited for that one on one experience and getting to hear what they have to say," she said. "I think I'm going to get to play a little bit and hear feedback, and that's going to be hard to do virtually, but I think we'll make the best of it."

Spigai said that she wasn't nervous for the workshops, and attributed that partly to the virtual format of the events.

"I think I'd be a lot more nervous if it was going to be in-person," she commented. "I think that talking through a phone or seeing someone on a screen, it kind of limits the level of nervousness that students are going to experience. But nevertheless, these are going to be very professional people that I'm going to be listening to, (and) playing for, so that pressure's always going to be there."