Staff Reporter 

All-state band competitors dedicated to craft


Last updated 3/15/2018 at 9:11am

Emilie Browning

Recently a number of members of the Medical Lake band program competed as member of the All-State Band in Yakima over President's Day weekend.

The following are some profiles on these students that help illustrate why they were selected for such an honor.

Emilie Browning

Browning has participated in state competition as a freshman, sophomore and senior. "It was a wonderful opportunity," she said.

Browning and friend Sofia Novochekhova each were part of the wind symphony as both freshmen and sophomores. As a junior, Novochekhova was a member of the concert band, the same group that Browning was part of as a senior.

Browning said she hopes to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where plans call for a double-major in music and pre-med. "I love music and helping people, so I figured why not do both," Browning said.

She is proud of the work her bandmates have done during high school. "I think it's pretty cool because the assumption is Medical Lake is off the map - we're a 1A school, people don't expect a lot from us," she said.

But they produce exceptional results.

That's due to the hard work of the musicians but also their teachers Don Johnson with band and Heidi Peterson in choir. "I've never seen teachers that go above and beyond as much as they do," Browning said.

Besides conducting the band, Browning also helps Johnson choreograph shows.

The commitment for these students is not just from September through June, either. "We come in summer to organize music and get ready for the year," Browning said.

When not fine-tuning her play on the saxophone, Browning is the drum major of the school's pep band. "I get to work with the band a lot improving musicianship," Browning said.

Her job is also to try to help get the crowd pumped up. Browning is in charge of determining what songs will be played.

"We always have a theme with our pep band games," she said.

For instance, on Senior Night for Cardinal basketball teams they took it a step further dressing as senior citizens. "We played bingo in the stands," she said.

Sofia Novochekhova

Novochekhova serves as band president, and in that role, naturally leads a lot of activities.

She ran at the end of her freshman year to become the vice president of public relations. Next, Novochekhova went for president, won and has served that role in her junior and senior years.

She helps organize the music that the pep band will play at basketball and football games. Novochekhova also helps lead discussions on what type of events the band is to play and how they will pay for travel.

Novochekhova singled out those behind the scenes, the equipment managers. "They do so much, they work so hard," she said. "The whole team is just great."

The preparation for state, which took place a month ago, needed to be slipped into a busy schedule of other activities.

Like any competition, the performers can find themselves with a case of the nerves. "The nerves never go away, you just get used to them," Novochekhova said.

For Novochekhova the jitters come mainly during the audition. That's because participants have a limited time to get their music recorded to be considered by judges.

"You do it as well as you can, to the best of your ability," Novochekhova said. "The waiting is also strenuous," she added, describing the time to ponder while awaiting news if they made the team or not.

Once part of the team, it's "Just excitement, because you are going to work with other awesome musicians," Novochekhova said.

On top of her efforts at state, Novochekhova recently competed in the Spokane Youth Symphony Concerto competition at Whitworth University and became the first musician in school history to win. She will get to be one of the three featured soloists with the Spokane Youth Symphony accompanying her on Sunday, May 20, at the Martin-Woldson Fox Theater.

A senior, Novochekhova, who plays the flute, said she plans a double-major in performance and education with the goal to follow in the footsteps of her teacher, Don Johnson.

Chris Keister

"I've been singing as long as I've been talking," all-state choir member Keister said. "I am a second bass, the lowest you can get" he added.

While their performances might not be as pronounced as the band, the choir does occasionally sing the national anthem. They also do stand-alone events and conduct Veterans' Day and Christmas concerts.

"In the Medical Lake choir, we have so many opportunities to sing and show off our talents," Keister said.

They also do a lot of competitions as a choir, Keister said, attending almost every one in the area. "We're a very competition-oriented choir."

A senior who began this path in middle school, Keister said, "I'm definitely going to keep singing," and he may form a band after graduation. He's considering further voice training at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. He credited Peterson with being a big influence in his progression as a singer.

Keister wants to get his foot in as many doors as he can because of his love for singing.

Paul Delaney can be reached at

Sofia Novochekhova


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