‘It’s really rewarding’: Summit High School junior reflects on recent performance at Colorado All-State Band Festival | SummitDaily.com

‘It’s really rewarding’: Summit High School junior reflects on recent performance at Colorado All-State Band Festival

The achievement by 17-year-old clarinet player Luke Kneller is akin to making state in a sport. Kneller says he hopes to do it again next year.

17-year-old Summit High School junior Luke Kneller stands, left, and Summit High School Band Director Karen Bautista, right. Kneller recently played during the 71st annual Colorado All-State Band Festival.
Summit School District/Courtesy photo

For Luke Kneller, a 17-year-old Summit High School junior who plays the clarinet, a recent weekend marked a musical achievement years in the making. 

Between March 23 and 25, Kneller rehearsed — and ultimately performed — for a crowd of hundreds gathered in Greeley for the 71st annual Colorado All-State Band Festival hosted by the University of Northern Colorado. 

The event is a landmark for high school musicians akin to making the state playoffs in a sport. Kneller’s played clarinet since the sixth grade, said he hopes it’ll help springboard his musical career. 

“I see making music a part of my future. All-State is one of those big steps for musicians,” Kneller said. 

Kneller auditioned for the event near Thanksgiving, and he found out he’d been accepted as an alternate — meaning he could play if someone else had to forfeit their spot — at the beginning of the year. 

Kneller said he “just played the waiting game,” and he was told he’d secured a spot about a month before the performance. He also made it into the more selective pool of performers who usually come from larger school districts. 

“When a small school person makes it into the larger school band, it’s really significant,” Kneller said. 

After two days of practicing alongside more than 100 fellow student musicians from across the state, the curtains were raised before a packed audience at the Union Colony Civic Center in downtown Greeley. 

“It was just really exciting throughout the whole thing,” Kneller said. 

Summit High School band director Karen Bautista said All-State is a unique shared experience.

“They played with such musical sensitivity, such good balance and blend,” Bautista said. “Once you’ve made it in, it’s all about the celebration and the sharing.”

Bautista, who made All-State twice in high school, called the event a “foundational” moment for her musical career. As band director, she’s taught Kneller over the past three years as well as working with him in an international baccalaureate music class this past year. 

“It’s just been a joy to watch him grow,” Bautista said, adding she believes the high school band has a lot of talent. She hopes Kneller’s success will pave the way for future students as well.

As he eyes a second attempt at making All-State next year, Kneller reflected on a musical journey that he said “started as a hobby that kind of became a passion.”

Kneller said he first became interested in the clarinet when he saw a performance in elementary school. In his first year of middle school, Kneller chose the clarinet as his school elective. 

“I feel like it’s a very versatile instrument, whereas some other instruments get stuck in certain roles,” Kneller said, noting that the clarinet can play a myriad of roles in musical composition from melodies to counter-melodies to  supporting rhythms.

In the last year and a half, Kneller has taken his talents to new heights after being selected by the Honors Performance Series to play at the world-famous Musikverein in Vienna, Austria and in Carnegie Hall in New York City. 

This past fall, Kneller was a guest solo performer for the Alpenglow Chamber Music Festival — which sees various artists perform in venues around Summit County.

Along with honing his clarinet skills, Kneller said he is learning piano as well as how to compose. He said his ultimate goal would be to become a professional composer, though Kneller said he’s also interested in teaching music and composition. 

Bautista said Kneller’s musical composition has “come to a new level,” adding that he’s writing music that at times may have to accommodate 14 or more different instruments. 

“He’s been incorporating all of that into his writing, which is really awesome,” Bautista said. “I think he has a lot of potential, and I don’t throw that around lightly.”

Kneller said he owes a lot to his teachers and mentors, including Bautista and his private clarinet instructor, Mallorie Wertz. 

“As a musician, I feel like I’ve really been growing,” he said. 

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