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Palmerton senior named to All-State Wind Ensemble

It had been 17 years between all-state instrumentalists for Palmerton Area High School before Mitchell Hourt reached that plateau last spring. Determined not to let more than a decade pass again, the Bomber senior was named to the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association All-State Wind Ensemble again in 2020.

“It’s always an honor to represent Palmerton,” Hourt, a trombone player, said. “It’s a very close-knit community, and there is great joy in helping to put our little town on the map.”

This also marked the third time Hourt has made the PMEA District 10 Band. At the District 10 Band at Exeter Township High School on Feb. 15, he was named the recipient of the annual District 10 Band Scholarship. Several days later he learned he would be moving on to Regional Band after re-auditions.

Unfortunately, however, due to COVID-19, the region and state events were not actually held, but students were able to submit video auditions to maintain the integrity of the process.

“It was hard to have that happen,” Hourt said of the cancellations. “I understand why it had to happen, but none of the musicians who participate in these events are doing it for the recognition. We do it for the music and for the camaraderie with other students from across the state. To miss out on all of that was extremely disappointing.”

Unlike an athletics postseason, when teams compete against schools with similar enrollment, the competitions Hourt takes part in place him against schools of all sizes. The key to his success, he said, comes from hard work, a true love of music and dedication to his instrument.

Although he had racked up plenty of accolades the last few years, it wasn’t always this easy.

“I learned to celebrate my successes as well as my setbacks,” he said. “Early in my high school career, I could only make it to the district level, but I wanted to work harder and I was able to achieve my ultimate goals.”

Having played trombone since the fourth grade, Hourt has gotten in plenty of reps on his own, but he also credits his time with groups outside of school with helping him hone his skills.

“Each ensemble I’ve performed with outside of school has helped me in different ways, whether it be sight reading music or my time with the jazz band, which helped me prepare for the bigger performances,” Hourt said.

Tom Heinick, Palmerton Area High School music teacher and band director, said Hourt is not only a great musician, but also an outstanding student and person.

“I have had the good fortune of working with him for nine years, and he truly is a wonderful representative of his school, family and community,” Heinick said. “He has contributed greatly to the success of our band program in recent years, both with his individual accomplishments and with his positive impact on other students.”

In the fall, Hourt will be attending Moravian College to major in music education. It was a meaningful choice for him, especially given the significance of trombone choirs to Moravian settlements in America. The trombone choir would often play from the church tower or from in front of the church entrance to call the congregation to worship.

After getting his degree, Hourt hopes to become a music teacher.

“There is no better way to share my passion for music then to teach it,” Hourt said. “I can’t imagine my life without music in it. Going to a local school will also allow me to keep my commitment with the local bands.”

Mitchell Hourt