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McNary junior wins state title for solo

McNary’s Tom Janssen, a euphonium player, won a state title in solo competition last weekend. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
McNary’s Tom Janssen, a euphonium player, won a state title in solo competition last weekend. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Even if he hadn’t emerged as the state champion soloist in euphonium playing, McNary High School’s Tom Janssen certainly went into the state competition with the right attitude.

“After I played, I would have been happy either way. It was the first time I played such a tough piece in competition,” said Janssen, a junior.

The piece, Pantomime by Philip Sparke, had just about everything a performer could hope for.

“It has a slow section, a fast section and some in-between parts that work well to show what can be done with the instrument,” Janssen said. “ It’s a piece that is written to win, and I was really proud of the performance.”

Janssen took second place in the same competition last year, and faced many of the same players this time around. He came out on top with a total of 913 points and was the only representative of a Salem-Keizer school to claim a top spot. His closest competitior scored 903.

The euphonium, which on sight looks something like a small, reconfigured tuba, was first developed in the 1840s. It’s featured most prominently in bands. Janssen had a few years under his belt with the trumpet before becoming a euphonist. The switch was prompted by difficulty with the trumpet after getting braces, which he no longer sports.

“The mouth piece is bigger and it isn’t pushing against the braces,” he said.

Before turning to brass instruments, Janssen started on the piano and that made the transition even easier.

“I knew both clefs because of piano lessons and it was just a matter of transposing the music,” Janssen said.

In addition to duties with the marching band, the jazz band and his solo performances, Janssen got the opportunity to fulfill another goal last fall. He played in the orchestra pit during the Celtic production of Urinetown.

“My understanding is that euphonium players don’t get to play in the pit very often. It’s a lot more fluid because you are accompanying the performers, but it was a lot of fun,” Janssen said.

Between three instruments, Janssen spends much of his time outside of school practicing on his own or taking private lessons.

“I don’t keep track of how much time I spend practicing,” he said. “I like getting a piece of music and just practicing until it’s as musical as it can be.”

That dedication earned him a state title, and now he gets to take a well-deserved bow.

In addition to Janssen, McNary’s Jeremy Morrison took second in trumpet, Hannah Raschko took third in trombone and Hyrum Kohler took fourth in viola.