JASPER COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — A middle school student is making history in Jasper County.
Sole’ Bennett is the first student musician in the county to ever make first chair in the South Carolina Band Directors Association All-State Honor Band.
“Music just made me happy,” Hardeeville-Ridgeland Middle School student Sole’ said. “And she said I should try out for band, so I did and I started playing the clarinet.”
A musician who earns the first chair position is the premier musician for their instrument in an orchestra. They are seated closest to the audience and take the lead for that instrument’s movements and play any solos.
Hardeeville-Ridgeland Middle School (HRMS) has had students previously place at the state level — but never at this high of an honor.
“She is a great student,” HRMS Band Director Christina Randall said. “Once she set her mind to a goal, she did not stop.”
Sole’ originally placed second in the region at the beginning of January, but she says she had even bigger goals for herself.
“Those are my standards,” the 14-year-old said. “I want to be the best.”
Sole’ has only been playing the clarinet for two years — but she says practicing for more than 10 hours a week helped her get to where she is now, along with her family who helps to keep her motivated.
Now she’s finding that all of her hard work is paying off.
“It takes a lot of practice and you have to put in the work and effort,” Sole’ said. “You have to, or you’re not going to get first chair!”
She went to Lexington High School for a call-back audition and competed against the top 17 middle school bass clarinetists in the state. That’s when she was honored as the best bass clarinetist.
“I felt really accomplished,” Sole’ said. “I just felt really amazed and proud of myself.”
She will participate in the South Carolina Band Directors Association All-State Honor Band Clinic at Furman University in March.
“I am beyond proud of her,” Randall said. “It’s a huge deal for a student from our district to make history like that. Our region is very competitive in music and it’s a very difficult task to place that high.”
Sole’ says she hopes to grow from making history in Jasper County now to playing for global audiences in the future.
“I want to teach music to kids,” she said. “And I want to major in music performance too so I can perform across the world.”
Hardeeville-Ridgeland Middle School students Denasia Haynes, Heather Aguilar-Chairez, Taylor Johnson and Taniya Reid have also placed at the regional level. They will all participate in the South Carolina Region 4 Honor Band Clinic at Charleston Southern University in February.
This is the most students that Hardeeville-Ridgeland Middle School has ever placed at the regional and state level.