Story by Malia Myers
“There’s something incredibly thrilling about knowing that you moved this audience to tears because of how you played; it’s just very powerful,” Senior Kayla Shaeffer said about her passion for the saxophone.
Shaeffer began playing at an early age. “I’ve been playing it since I was in fifth grade, so this is my eighth year,” she said.
She spends countless hours every week just practicing. “I sacrifice a lot of my time and sanity,” Shaeffer said. “I practice every day for an hour and a half, doing the same thing over and over to make every detail perfect, which can be really stressful.”
Her work ethic stands out amongst other students. “She has the ability to work diligently on her own time to accomplish her goals. She’s able to do this without someone looking over her shoulder or making her work hard. She is driven as an individual to take her talents to the next level,” said music director, Shawn Harrell.
Band Director Clifton Thurmond observes this in her as well. “Kayla is one of the few high school musicians that has the drive to be excellent at her craft; this sets her apart as a saxophonist from other students,” he said.
Shaeffer’s hard work has already began to take her places. “I’ve been a member of the district band all four years of high school, so I’ve auditioned at state every year. I was an alternate for the all-state band my sophomore year,” she said.
She worked harder than ever before to make the all-state band her junior year, but it was to little avail. Due to poor weather, audition plans changed several times, so “We had to record our auditions, and that threw me off…I kind of freaked out, flubbed a couple scales, and I knew it was coming, but it hurt so badly to not make it.”
Despite the major setback, Shaeffer used her experience as motivation to work even harder. “We always try to prepare for the best audition we can, but we know going in that the best audition you’ll ever have is in your rehearsal, and it’s never going to be as good as you want it to be,” she said.
Luckily, working double time payed off for Shaeffer. Not only did she make the all-state band, she even ranked first chair. “I wasn’t expecting it…My mom started crying, I was freaking out, just calling my dad, my grandparents, my teacher, my friends, and I was just in shock; I couldn’t believe it,” said Shaeffer.
While Shaeffer’s achievements bring her great joy, the feeling she gets during a performance is second to none. “I’m just up there putting out my entire self for everyone to examine through my music, and it’s ok to be that open with people. You have to embrace the people around you,” she said.
Eight years ago, she fell in love with the instrument, but her love has continued to grow ever since. “I love the expressiveness of the instrument. Saxophone is able to have so many colors of sound, and it has a huge dynamic range,” said Shaeffer. “I can barely use any breath and just have a very quiet, compact note, or I can play huge and aggressive…The range of emotion I can portray is astounding.”
Shaeffer’s recent high school experiences have helped her make a decision for the future. “I’ve really solidified that I’m going into music education, and that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said.
“The plan currently stands that I’m going to be at Oklahoma for 6 years. I have a five year scholarship, so I’m going to go for my masters. Then, I may spend a few years teaching at a secondary level, only to go back and get my doctorate, so I can teach college kids,” said Shaeffer.
“She can go as far as she chooses to go because I know she works hard,” said Harrell. “The thing about music as a career is that you have to juggle a lot of responsibilities and you have to keep a lot of irons on the fire to be successful.”
One thing for certain is that no matter which musical avenue Shaeffer takes, she will be sharing her musical gift with generations to come.