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Brittany Gilliland, a seventeen-year-old student at Mount Ayr High School, was one of 220 students selected to play as part of the Iowa All-State Orchestra this past week. The finest high school musicians across Iowa gathered at Iowa State University Hilton Coliseum for the All-State Music Festival on November 16-18, 2023.
Musicians practiced together for roughly eight hours the first day to prepare for their concert. The concert was recorded and will be televised on PBS Thursday, November 23, (Thanksgiving Day) at 7 p.m. A second showing of the concert will be aired on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Brittany’s love for the violin began at age two. She grew up listening to her mother play and practice the instrument, and often asked when she could play.
“She had just turned three, and we surprised her with her own violin at Christmas,” Kristy Gilliland recalled. “It’s what she loves,” Kristy remarked, “She learned to motivate herself.”
“I haven’t reminded her to practice for 6 or 7 years, now,” Kristy stated, “she has learned to prioritize practicing, and practices very efficiently.”
She and her younger sister, Bria, both started playing with Faith Baptist Bible College Orchestra in Ankeny recently. While Brittany and Bria are high school age, the musical group is made up of mostly college students. The sisters play alongside 6-8 other violinists.
Last April, Brittany attended a competition in Ankeny and did really well.
Then, her mother pitched the idea of auditioning for the All-State Orchestra, so she could play with kids who love music as much as she does.
Brittany went to Atlantic High School, one of six audition sites across Iowa, on October 21, 2023. Mount Ayr band teacher, Aaron Comer, sponsored Brittany, and registered her through Mount Ayr High School. Comer went with the Gilliland’s for the audition in Atlantic, where she learned she was one of three students selected for the All-State Orchestra from that audition site.
Brittany placed in the top half of those who auditioned, earning her a seat in the violin 1 section. At the conclusion of the auditions, she received music to practice over the next month, prior to arriving for the full orchestra experience.
“It was amazing,” Brittany remarked. “To be able to play with other people who love music, and are good at what they play was so amazing.”
In her spare time, Brittany shares her love for music by offering lessons for younger students who also want to play the violin.
She has organized an upcoming Christmas concert, with the help of her fellow violinists. Brittany and her students plan to perform at Mount Ayr Healthcare on December 20 at 4:30 p.m.