Southern Regional Sophomore Bassoonist Selected for All-State Orchestra and Band

Feb 06, 2019
Photo by: Supplied photo

In sixth grade, Amanda Rutkowski was hand-picked as a potential oboe or bassoon player after proving her skills with the alto saxophone.

“I tried the oboe, and it sounded like a dying duck,” said the Southern Regional sophomore. “So I went with the bassoon, and it had a pretty good tone the first time I tried it. I loved it right away.”

Making the conversion from a single-reed to a double-reed instrument wasn’t too difficult for Rutkowski, and by the time she reached the high school level, she was good enough with the woodwind to start competing for several honors – namely the seats on the New Jersey Music Educators Association All-State Band or Orchestra.

Last year as a freshman, Rutkowski made it through the regional level, landing spots on the all-South Jersey band and orchestra. Then came time for the state-level auditions, and the bassoonist hit a rut.

“With the audition process, you’re given a piece of music and you have to learn, and then for the actual audition you have scales ,and then you have to perform an excerpt from that music as well as sight read a piece of music,” she explained. “So, I made first bassoon for all-region last year, but for the state audition I screwed up one of the scales, and it completely messed up my score.”

In December, Rutkowski returned to the all-region auditions at Absegami High School and breezed through. For the all-state auditions at J.P. Stevens High School in January, she scored 80 points higher than a year ago, becoming the second sophomore bassoonist in Southern’s music program ever to be selected to an all-state chair.

“My boyfriend texted me the results, and I started crying,” she said. “He sent me the list of all the scores, and I just started freaking out. I was selected fifth seat for all-state band and second seat for the orchestra.”

Music instructor Jennifer Hodgson said Rutkowski has joined a decent-sized list of Southern students who have been selected to all-state band or orchestra chairs, but a sophomore bassoonist is quite unusual.

“She’s the first one since 2001,” Hodgson said. “Amanda puts in a lot of time with her instruments, whether it’s the saxophone, piano or bassoon. When she was switched over to the bassoon, we knew she would do well with it. She’s very good, and making all-state is a big deal.”

Rutkowski is part of multiple bands at Southern, utilizing her musical talents in a variety of ways, and looks forward to the day when she can make music a career.

“Right now, I’m thinking about teaching music and someday being in an orchestra,” she said. “I’m not sure if I can teach little kids, but I definitely want to teach music. A lot of popular music is lacking in instruments, among other things, and I really want to help keep the old, beautiful classics alive by inspiring others to keep up the tradition of playing music with actual instruments instead of electronics.”

Of course, before college and a career in music, Rutkowski has more goals for the next couple of years in high school.

“By the time I’m a senior, I want to make first chair for all-state, and maybe make an all-Eastern or all-national band as well,” said Rutkowski, who credits her brother, Colin, with helping her develop a love for music. “Last year, I just wanted a shot, to give it a try. This year, I worked a lot harder and improved a lot over the past year. I look at it this way: If I can’t achieve now, how will I achieve later? If I achieve now, I’m 100 percent confident I can achieve later.”

— David Biggy

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