Their lungs, lips and fingers may get tired, but fatigue won't stop three Portales High School seniors from achieving a spot in a statewide band, an opportunity that they call an honor.
From early morning rehearsals to repeating the same etudes, these girls have been preparing for the New Mexico Music Educators Association's All-District and All-State Band auditions later this month.
"I've been looking forward to it for so long," said clarinet player Adrianna Lucero. "It would mean everything to me if I make both bands. This is the hardest I ever worked for it."
Lucero and friends Kylie Katalinich and Kaleigh Johns are former All-State Band members but the girls say the stakes are high now that it's their senior year because this honor can earn them scholarships.
Auditions for All-State band will take place at Eastern New Mexico University. Katalinich says they will be required to play two scales, perform the etudes given to them in April and sight reading for judges.
"Making this band means you're like the best in the state," Lucero said.
About 100 students will get to participate in the conference and concert that takes place at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in January.
"You have to practice a lot, working on dynamics," said Johns, a flautist. "There's always going to be a part you struggle with and you want to be better."
Lucero said all the practice and the lessons she's had since the end of the summer have taught her patience,
Katalinich, a trombone player, said her long-term goals of studying music education at ENMU keep her going.
"It's about remembering what I'm going for and you can't lose focus," Katalinich said. "Dedication is picking up your horn and starting to play."
As seniors, the girls agree that it's hard to balance their time between taking college courses, a part of PHS's dual credit program, and other extra curricular activities but making the band would make it all worthwhile.
They also teach music at Portales Junior High because they feel it's important to set an example of hard work.
"It takes that extra step," Katalinich said. " It's about wanting to play with people who want it and try so hard."
Johns says in order to make the band and stand out from other musicians, they have to give them their best and make the piece sound interesting.
But Katalinich said the dedication and anxiety doesn't stop once you make the band, because students have to audition again.
"You have to practice to make first chair," Katalinich said. "It's not over until the final concert."
The girls agreed that the best part of participating in the All-State Band is the environment at UNM.
"It's a different atmosphere there," Lucero said, comparing it to school practices. "Most people there want to be there."
"The music is beautiful and it's over way too quick," Katalinich added.
PHS Band Director Jennifer Johnson said a total of 35 students from Portales will be auditioning among the hundreds. She said she doesn't want those who don't make it to be discouraged.
"It's not about the end result, it's about the process," Johnson said.
Johnson is in her fifth year as band director of PHS and says she can't think of a better job. She added it brings her great joy to see her students get a spot in the All-State Band.
"To see them work for something and achieve a goal, I think that's the main reason why I push them," Johnson said. "It sets up good life skills."