LA senior Cooper Swartzentruber is an All-National Saxophonist. 

All-National Saxophone player and Lincoln Academy senior Cooper Swartzentruber traveled to the Gaylord Convention Center in Washington DC to participate in the All-National Honor Ensemble music festival November 3-6. At the festival he rehearsed and performed along with some of the best high school musicians in the nation.

Swartzentruber qualified for the All National Ensemble last year as well, but because of Covid restrictions both the 2021 audition and festival were remote. This year he was able to travel and participate in the festival in person.

“It was great to be able to perform in person and play with amazing musicians,” said Swartzentruber. “Last year when I was accepted into All-Nationals I knew it was a big deal, but to be actually playing with other musicians who are of that caliber was awesome. Last year it was a virtual ensemble and I learned a lot, but you didn’t get the social connections.”

540 students from the United States, including 12 students from Maine, were selected for the all-national concert band, choir, symphonic orchestra, guitar ensemble, and modern band after auditioning last spring. Swartzentruber had the third-highest alto saxophone score in the nation.

LA choir teacher Emily Anderson traveled with Swartzentruber to the festival. She said, “from Thursday to Sunday the students worked their tails off with national and international conductors through 16 hours of rehearsals to prepare for a sold-out culminating concert. I’ve heard a lot of great live music in my time, but the level of musicianship and energy brought to the stage by these high school students was unmatched by anything I’d heard before.”

Swartzentruber played in the festival’s Concert Band, which performed a selection of music including a march and a piece composed by the winner of the national high school composing competition. “The composer was there in the audience and got to hear us play the piece–it was amazing that it was written by a high school student,” said Swartzentruber. The band also played the third movement of Frank Ticheli’s Symphony Number 2, which Swartzentruber described as “ the hardest piece of concert band music that I have played in my life.”
“It was great seeing the progress from when we first got there to when we performed. The first night people were tired and no one played their best, but after really long rehearsal sessions on Friday and Saturday, we improved a ton, and you could really see the caliber of musicians that were there. Whole sections were in tune with each other–the preciseness of where beats lie, and counting–everything was just amped up to the max.”

Even when he felt fatigued by the intensity and length of rehearsals, Swartzentruber said, “I reminded myself that I am in Washington DC with the best high school musicians in the nation, so take it in while you can.”

After graduating from LA in June of 2023, Swartzentruber plans to earn his bachelor of music in jazz performance. He has already been accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and he is also applying to other music schools including the Manhattan School of Music, the Eastman School of Music, and the University of Southern Maine. He has plans to go on to graduate school after college so that one day he can both teach and perform.

Swartzentruber currently plays with the LA Wind Ensemble and Five O’Clock Jazz Combo, and also sings in the LA Lincolnaires. Outside of school he performs with the Portland Youth Wind Ensemble as well as the Bowdoin Band. The LA Wind Ensemble has their Holiday Pops Concert on Sunday, December 4 at the Damariscotta Baptist Church. The Lincolnaires winter concert is on Saturday, December 11 at 7 pm at the Damariscotta Baptist Church.