With four deep kicks to the bass drum and a crack of the snare, the 2019 All-National Honor Ensemble festival got its first introduction to Justin Livingston.
Livingston, a senior at Timberlane Regional High School, in Plaistow, was one of just four New Hampshire students chosen to be a part of the select All-National Honor Ensemble (ANHE) performances in Orlando, Florida, recently.
He was selected to be a part of ANHE last summer after an audition process that started in May.
“I submitted a video audition where I recorded myself playing a few tunes and a vocal part,” Livingston said.
The 17-year-old submitted video of himself playing Stevie Wonder's “Higher Ground,” and a jazz piece called “Armando's Rhumba.” He also sang “Beautiful City” from the musical, “Godspell.”
His parents, Tim and Michelle Livingston, have become accustomed to his many auditions and tryouts, but weren't sure if it would lead anywhere.
“We were so proud of him for auditioning and we were excited when he did his application, but we thought, 'chances are, nothing will happen here,'” Michelle Livingston said. “But then we got the news and thought, 'Oh my god something happened here.'”
The Livingstons got the news he had been selected in June.
“It was funny when we heard,” Justin said. “I was with three friends who had come over and we had just come inside when we got the message. We were all going crazy.”
Justin traveled to Orlando in early November to perform in the annual ANHE festival at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. So when the Modern Band Ensemble kicked into a cover of the Kansas classic rock song, “Carry On Wayward Son,” it was the Sandown resident who drove it from behind the drums.
“At first I was a little nervous,” he said. “I didn't know what to expect. But the Modern Band clicked instantly. It was great to be around people who shared similar interests. Everyone got along so well - it was really nice.”
There are six 2019 All-National Honor Ensembles: Jazz Ensemble, Mixed Choir, Guitar Ensemble, Modern Band, Symphony Orchestra, and Concert Band. Justin played drums in Modern Band, whose set included “Carry On Wayward Son” and Lizzo’s “Juice.”
“I was honored and humbled to have the opportunity to play in the inaugural Modern Band performance with such talented musicians from all over the country,” Justin said.
A longtime member of the Timberlane music program, Livingston is the vice president of the Tri-M music honor society, a member of the Timberlane marching band, concert band, jazz band, jazz combo, orchestra and rock ensemble. He performs in the pit band and in the cast for a number of musicals – with Timberlane and independent of the school – and was recently named the top high school drummer in the state during the All-State jazz auditions by the New Hampshire Music Educators Association.
“I think having the experience of jazz band at Timberlane helped so much,” Justin said. “One of the big things they were looking for was musical diversity – the ability to play a lot of different styles. Without that jazz band experience, I wouldn't have been nearly as ready as I was. Having Mr. Clark - one of the best drummers anywhere - as an instructor, was huge. He's an awesome role model to look up to.”
After graduation, Justin plans to pursue a degree in Audio Engineering/Sound Design and Drum Set Performance and make music his profession.
(Editor’s note: Bill Burke can be reached at email@example.com.)