WHS musician becomes 1st Bartow student accepted into AYWS

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It appears a Woodland High School musician has made history.

Trumpet player Billy Sands seems to be the only student from Bartow County to ever be selected for the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. 

According to the AYWS website, the ensemble was formed in 1988 and has included students from about 75 different high schools in Barrow, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Houston, Oconee, Paulding, Pickens and Rockdale counties.

Since Bartow was not mentioned in that list, that would mean Sands has to be the first from the county.

"We were very excited for him regarding this special honor," WHS Director of Bands Eric Willoughby said, noting three other Woodland musicians also auditioned. "The AYWS is a prestigious group of youth musicians, and students from all over Georgia audition for acceptance. Billy is a very dedicated and talented musician. We are so proud of his representation of our school and band program in the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony."  

Sands, 17, said his acceptance, which he learned about when he found his name on the upcoming season's roster on the ensemble's website two weeks ago, was "unexpected."

"I never thought I would have the honor of being part of such a prestigious group of young and flourishing musicians," he said. "The second I became aware of my acceptance, I was ecstatic. The challenge and the connections built with other young adults pursuing the goal of musical expression and achievement is unprecedented in the sense of performing in this ensemble." 

The senior said he is looking forward to being one of the 99 high school students who will be working to improve their musical skills. 

"Though I could likely write a series of works on this particular inquiry, a few of my most anticipated experiences include truly being challenged with what I currently know, learning to communicate better by meeting like-minded individuals and appreciating the coalescence of a group seeking to accomplish elite sounds the best that they possibly can," he said. 

Before his Aug. 4 audition at Lakeside High School in Atlanta, Sands said he had to apply through an "online portfolio of general information blanks, which gave me an opportunity to analyze my decision-making."

"At the actual audition, I prepared two different etudes, one of lyrical descent and the other of technical descent," he said. "The judges were all distinctly gregarious, which greatly reduced any audition anxiety I was experiencing prior."

Two-hour rehearsals, which have already begun, are held every Monday during the school year at Lakeside, and the young musicians learn the pieces for each of their four concerts in about six rehearsals, according to the website.

The first concert is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 1, at 8 p.m. at Lakeside, Sands added. 

The son of Lisa and Aaron Sands of Cartersville said he began playing trumpet as a "casual hobby" when he was in third grade.

"I originally chose trumpet because it seemed like the least popular at my elementary school so I decided to try and lead by example," he said. "I was already in orchestra at the time — violin was my primary, though I experimented with viola and cello as well — but the more I played trumpet, the more passionate about it I became and the more I wanted to pursue a career in playing it."  

A "true and devout" member of the WHS marching band since his freshman year, Sands said he's also been a member of the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Woodland jazz band, the Woodland wind symphony and the Young Musicians Community Orchestra, which he belonged to when he lived in Pennsylvania.