Brass talent: Local marches with Lions Band

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Peyton Stephens plays a melody at this home in Henleyfield.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

Peyton Stephens plays a melody at this home in Henleyfield.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

For the past two years, Henleyfield native and trumpet player Peyton Stephens had the distinct honor of marching with the Mississippi Lions All-State Band.
He is the son of Vicki and Troy and is a 2015 graduate of Picayune Memorial High School.
His journey into brass instruments began in the sixth grade when he started on the trombone in beginner band.
“After about two months I decided the trombone was boring and switched to the trumpet, I’ve been playing it ever since,” Peyton said. “I love the way it sounds and it almost always has the melody in songs.”
During his junior and high school years, Peyton also played in the jazz band and served as high brass captain during his junior and senior years. He also served as first chair and helped teach music to sixth graders and junior high band members.
He is also a member of the Pearl River County Community Band and takes lessons from director Johnny Baker.
His musical influences include Doc Severinsen, former USM professor Jason Bergmen and Maynard Ferguson. His favorite types of music to play are classical and jazz.
There are a number of skills involved with trumpet playing, which include producing a lot of air, a firm embouchere, quick fingers and good dexterity.
Peyton first heard about the all-state band in 2012 from a fellow band student. He auditioned that year and almost made it, he said.
However, in 2013, Peyton was chosen to participate in the band, after two weekends of auditions.
During the first weekend, Peyton placed major scales in the circle of fifths and performed sight-reading in a room with about eight judges. In the second room, he performed a prepared piece. The second weekend of auditions included the same exercises, just on a more advanced level and in front of different judges, he said.
“I felt excited when I made it this year,” Peyton said. “I ranked 15 out of 24 trumpet players. More than 104 tried out. Thousands try out for the band, but only about 150 make it, which includes dancers and color guard.”
Each year the Mississippi Lions All-State Band travels to the location of the Lions Club International conventions to perform, Peyton said. During Peyton’s first year with the band, he traveled to Toronto, Canada. This past summer, Peyton marched in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the band performed marched and also performed patriotic songs at Pearl Harbor to honor the lives lost on the USS Arizona, he said. The Lion’s Club of Picayune also contributed a $100 scholarship to his trip.
“This is one of the most prestigious things a high school musician can do in this state,” he said. “If you make this band, everyone expects more from you.”
He is currently attending Pearl River Community College, where he is pursuing an instrumentation degree.
“There’s not a lot of job opportunities with a music degree, but I can still play music on the weekends, and still have a dependable paying job,” Peyton said.
He is a member of the PRCC marching band, show choir band and the brass quintet. Next semester, he plans to join the jazz band.
His mom recalled the first time she witnessed his talent in the sixth grade.
“The band director told me he was very good. I think he’s pretty amazing,” Vicki said. “I had no idea he was going to have this musical talent. I love hearing him practice every night in his room. I’m proud of his determination and perseverance. He’s really dedicated to improving. It’s music to our ears and hearts.”
Peyton’s dad, Troy, said he is “very, very proud of his son.”
“He took it seriously and made something out of it,” Troy said. “He practiced and tried real hard and had the experience of a lifetime. This band should be promoted in more in more schools. I’m proud that he put Picayune on the map.”
After PRCC, Peyton plans to attend the University of Mississippi and march in the band. However, since he is ineligible to audition for the Lion’s Club band, he plans to audition for DCI Core, a group of about 20 marching bands with members between the ages of 18 and 22 from all over the country, he said. During the summer, they practice a half time show and travel the country performing prior to a final competition.
Peyton said playing with the Lions Band is perfection.
“Being a part of that was amazing,” he said. “Everyone in the band is equally as good and they all love music. You can hear a difference between a good musician who has that desire in their heart and one who doesn’t.”
marching band: The 2015 Mississippi Lions All-State Band, who were named the champions at this year’s convention in Hawaii.  Photo submitted

marching band: The 2015 Mississippi Lions All-State Band, who were named the champions at this year’s convention in Hawaii.
Photo submitted

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