Asheville High School student learns about leadership via the clarinet

IN COMMAND: Emery Fischer-Schmidt takes the baton as drum major of the Asheville High School marching band. Photo courtesy of Fischer-Schmidt

Emery Fischer-Schmidt found the right fit in the fifth grade.

That’s when he and his classmates were introduced to a number of instruments — from flutes to saxophones — and given five minutes to play around with each. When Fischer-Schmidt came across the clarinet, everything changed. 

“Clarinet parts are at the forefront of many pieces of music,” Fischer-Schmidt explains. “You’re playing a lot of notes quickly, so it’s fun. Conversely, a tuba player plays a long, sustained note.” 

Now a senior at Asheville High School, the clarinetist has been performing in school bands since the sixth grade. The reed instrument has led him to be both section leader for the instrument and drum major for this year’s marching band at Asheville High School.

Soon, Fischer-Schmidt and 99 of his fellow musicians will be traveling by bus to New York City to play at Carnegie Hall as part of the National Band and Orchestra Festival. The Asheville band will take the stage on Saturday, March 30, at 8 p.m. 

Band director Rodney K. Workman notes several students will have solos across the four pieces they are playing. “Emery is featured for sure. The entire first movement of the ‘Give Us This Day’ is a clarinet solo,” Workman says. 

Fischer-Schmidt tells Xpress what he has learned about himself and others through his time in band. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Xpress: How did you wind up going to Carnegie Hall?

Fischer-Schmidt: Our band director, Mr. Workman, has wanted us to go on a trip for years. Mr. Workman sent in audition tapes a couple of years in a row for the National Concert Band Festival. They’re looking for bands with longevity, both for the members and the length of time the band has been around.

Why do you like being in band?

The band community is really strong. It’s a supportive, noncompetitive environment. The mentorship between students and between students and teachers is really important. The teachers don’t treat us like adults exactly, but they treat us like responsible people. The community is why I’ve stuck with it.

What activities are you involved in outside of band? 

I play baseball and I love to be outdoors — hiking and mountain biking. 

How has being in band helped you in school?

It’s about being a team player versus an individual. You have to blend your sound with others. It’s the same with baseball. You’re one member of a team. 

How did band teach you leadership skills?

You can think people are not born leaders, but one becomes a leader through time and experience. As a drum major, I was managing 160 students at the same time. You try to be a leader and a student at the same time. If you’re a tyrant, people aren’t going to respond to you. If you remain one of them, they will. 

What are your plans after graduation from AHS?

I plan to go to a four-year college, but I won’t major in music. I’ll still play, but I plan to study politics or economics. 



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