CORRECTION: A previous version of this article erred in the classification for Brandon Richardson. He will be a junior at Prosper High School this fall.
Excellence is nothing new to Prosper's Mighty Eagle music program, but at this year's University Interscholastic League competition, two students upped the tempo and raised the bar.
2017 graduate Kade Smith and incoming junior Brandon Richardson both competed in the state's capitol at the UIL Texas State Solo-Ensemble Contest, and both of them took home the Outstanding Performer award for their work.
Only 2 to 3 percent of the 125,000-plus performers leave the contest with this award, making it especially significant that two Mighty Eagles received such high praise especially significant.
Since Smith and Richardson are state winners, their pictures will be displayed on the side of the building at school, along with other students who have achieved similar feats over the years.
Richardson is a trumpet player, while Smith plays the baritone saxophone. Their band director, John Alstrin, is proud of their accomplishments, but given their work ethic and talent, he's certainly not surprised.
“The musical achievement and proficiencies of both of these young men is very similar, and they both speak the language of music eloquently,” Alstrin said. “What I think is most impressive about this is the fact that these students overcame nerves, memorized solos that were around 10 minutes long, and performed for a complete stranger at UT Austin. That to me takes integrity, grit and dedication.”
Reflecting on his accomplishment, Smith gave all the credit back to Alstrin and his exceptional Prosper peers.
“Prosper's band program is the only reason I am a musician at all,” he said. “Not only did it guide me to what I think is the perfect instrument for me, it also nurtured a love of classical music and music as a whole.”
Smith is particularly grateful for his fellow bandmates, who he believes have helped him prepare for his journey after high school.
“Band typically attracts really smart kids, so being around such high-caliber students really helped me,” he said. “I became a little more mature and a little more responsible each year, which will benefit me in college quite a bit.”
Meanwhile, Richardson will return to the band next year, but if anything, this triumph at state competition has only made him more eager to improve.
“I knew I did well but 'outstanding soloist' never really crossed my mind,” he said of the award. “This award gives me more confidence and motivation to keep moving forward.”
He added that the experience is something he certainly wouldn't mind repeating.
“My goals for the next year include performing well in the high school division of the National Trumpet Competition, making the 6A All-State Band, and getting outstanding soloist again,” Richardson said. “I would also like to improve my overall sound and flexibility.”
Speaking to Alstrin, it became clear that this high level of motivation is par for the course in Prosper arts.
“Our art, theater, choir, orchestra and dance programs are ridiculously talented,” he said. “As a Prosper resident and PHS teacher, I implore anyone reading this to attend a performance, show, gallery exhibit or concert at PHS this year. Our kids are simply amazing, so please come and see it for yourself. You'll walk away inspired.”