BOLLING AFB, DC --
Imagine being on stage as the lights dim, preparing to perform with 2,000 eyes focusing on you. On top of that, imagine you're still in high school and 1,500 miles from home in the nation's capital. One Texas youth did not have to imagine, she just had to prepare for it.
Betty Macias, from Baytown, Texas, was the 2007 winner of the United States Air Force Band's Col. George S. Howard Youth Artist Competition held each year for high school band members across the nation.
The winner of the competition, named after Col. George S. Howard, former U.S. Air Force Band commander and conductor from 1944-1963, is flown to Washington to perform with the Band during the Guest Artist series at the Daughters of the American Revelation Constitution Hall.
Woodwind, brass and percussion instrumentalist from every state including Hawaii and Alaska in grades 10 through 12 send audio tapes of themselves playing their instrument of choice. The finalists are invited to audition live in Washington, and only one applicant is awarded the top spot.
A senior at Robert E. Lee High and a first chair flatus in the Symphonic Band and Orchestra, Mrs. Macias is considered to be in the top 1 percent of musicians in Texas.
An accomplished musician since she first began to play the flute in sixth grade, Mrs. Macias has been named Goose Creek Independent School District "Outstanding Musician" for seven consecutive years, appointed principal flute of the Baytown Symphony and flute/piccolo player of Virtuosi of Houston Chamber Orchestra at 15, has played as an invited guest with the Puebla Symphony for their annual World Choir Festival held in Mexico City, and with the Houston Symphony for their "Side by Side" concert in 2006.
"Betty has an impressive résumé of accomplishments for someone who is only 19," said Victor Brodie, a spectator at the concert. "She looks very clam, confident and together on stage. You can tell she knows what she is doing."
Mrs. Lillian Flores, another concert attendee, said, "She must spend hours and hours practicing, but she has natural talent also. It's easy to spot God-given ability like that."
Betty has earned respect from not only her peers, but also her teachers. "She is an outstanding young lady," said Principal Bruce Davis. "She is not only talented; she is a really great person, a real joy to meet."
Band Director Alec McGuire echoed Mr. Davis's remarks. "She has been outstanding all four years she has been here [at Robert E. Lee high school]," he said. "We have a lot of talented students here, but Betty is really top of the class."
Asked what she thought about winning the competition, Mrs. Macias said, "I think it is a fabulous opportunity. Not a lot of teens get the chances to do something like this and I am really looking forward to doing it."
Prior to going on stage, Betty was calm and collected, not as nervous as one might think. "Betty came out and performed her set flawlessly," said Daniel Decook, 844th Communications Group.
Upon completion of her piece, she bowed graciously to the ovations of the crowd and received a plague of appreciation from Col. Dennis Layendecker, Air Force Band commander and conductor. Afterward, during a break in the music, Betty signed autographs for fans and posed for photos.
When asked for an appraisal of her performance, she said, "I think I did well, but I always think I can do better. All artists think that. I'm happy with how I did. It was really fun."
In addition to her music career, Mrs. Macias is the drum major for her band, vice president for Interact (Rotary) Club, good sportsmanship leader for student council, was nominated for the Congressional Youth Leadership Council and the United States Achievement Academy National Award.
Mrs. Macias performed March 4 in the final installment of the Air Force's 2007 Guest Artist series at DAR Constitution Hall, located in downtown Washington.
The next series of performances for the United States Air Force Band will be the Chamber Players series, which runs until May 4. For more information regarding Band performances, call (202) 767-5658 or logon to www.usafband.com