Playing the saxophone is in Dylan Misenheimer’s blood. Counting him, there are six saxophonists in his family. For as long as he can remember, they’ve gotten together as an ensemble around the holidays to perform together. “Typically, at Christmas we do a 10-piece concert series, so we invite four other people to come and be a part of that and we perform in the Cabarrus and Randolph County area,” Misenheimer said. “We have soprano all the way down to bass saxophone. It’s been different variations on the same ensemble, and it’s also changed as we came of age and learned to play saxophone. It’s like a rite of passage for our family.”
That family tradition led Misenheimer, a junior majoring in electrical engineering, to continue participating in music once he arrived at NC State. In addition to serving as a saxophone section leader for the marching band, Misenheimer has been a member of the wind ensemble, pep band and Raleigh Civic Symphony.
“I think I’ve improved personally as a musician since I came to State, through the different ensembles and working with the faculty here,” said Misenheimer, who is this year’s recipient of the Toni Christine Masini Memorial Scholarship, the Department of Music’s largest scholarship for a leader in the marching band. “But also, just working together with people and all the leadership experience, that’s invaluable stuff that’s applicable to most scenarios and jobs.”
The application for the Masini scholarship asks students to write an essay on leadership, which gave Misenheimer a chance to consider not only his experiences in marching band, but also his own strengths and weaknesses as a leader.
“It gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I’ve been able to do here and also where I could go and what I could do more productively. So, it was kind of an opportunity to critique my own self,” Misenheimer said. “[Being a section leader] is definitely a test in working with other people. Getting college kids to do what you want isn’t always ideal and sometimes I do better than others, just in responding to how people react. But that’s been a big lesson that I’ve worked with, finding that balance of, ‘Oh, I’m your friend, but also we have to get this done.’”
In addition to developing his musical and leadership skills, participating in the ensembles at NC State has given Misenheimer the chance to experience several firsts, such as his first time running onto the field at Carter Finley Stadium in front of 60,000 people, and his first time flying when he travelled to Italy with the wind and jazz ensembles over the summer.
Performing with the wind ensemble outside St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome is another first that he’ll never forget. As someone with music in his DNA, seeing people from another country appreciating music in the same way resonated with him. “It was really cool to see how people [in Italy] responded to music, because they love music. You had old people walking up to us like, ‘Oh, do you know this tune?’ They really enjoyed it, especially when we played more familiar stuff. That was really cool, seeing them respond to that.”
Misenheimer will perform in a holiday concert with the NC State Wind Ensemble on Dec. 6, or if you’re in the Randolph County area over the holidays, try to catch him and members of his family performing with the Randleman Friends Meeting Saxophone Ensemble.