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Hartley earns All-State spot, looks forward to career in music
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Senior trumpeter Palmer Hartley (third trumpet from the right) plays during the GMEA All-State band event in Athens.

Dawson County High School senior trumpeter Palmer Hartley is no stranger to the big stage of high school ensemble performances, having been a member of the Georgia Music Educators Association All-State band on multiple occasions.

This time around, Hartley placed the cherry on top of his illustrious career by earning one last All-State spot — having also earned first chair at the All-District event earlier this year.

Over three grueling days in Athens from Thursday, March 3 to Saturday, March 5, Hartley applied his talent, skills and experience to be a critical part of an elite group of performers.

While Hartley still has important group performances to attend, such as the DCHS Symphonic Band’s Large Group Performance Evaluation next week and Spring concert later on, his final All-State experience was a culmination of his individual growth and hard work.

“Back in eighth grade at my first time auditioning…I got into the audition room and messed up my scales horribly,” Hartley said. “I learned that scales were the main thing that I really needed to work on. I needed to practice things that I don’t enjoy as much so I can get better at the things I do enjoy.”

Hartley’s focus on the fundamental aspects of playing his instrument has helped him not only with his individual performing but also in becoming a leader within the DCHS band.

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Hartley stands with DCHS band director Nicholas Gattis. Over the past four years, Hartley has become a leader in the DCHS band.

An astute sight-reader, Hartley learned that the confidence he needed for All-State is an invaluable part of helping the DCHS band navigate the often challenging path that LGPE sight-reading presents.

“I just try to help my people follow along if they get lost and show them where it is that I am playing,” Hartley said. “I realized [at All-State] that if you become shy about what you’re doing, you mess up more. If you exude confidence, it’s a lot better.”

As for the future, Hartley has a unique avenue he wants to take to apply his music skills.

Inspired by the likes of Aaron Copeland and John Williams, Hartley is pursuing a career in film and theatrical music composition. He is already taking composition lessons with a private teacher and is learning how the structure of music operates.

Last year, Hartley won the 2021 GMEA composition competition.

Currently, Hartley is observing how scores can reveal a character’s depth — through the detective comedy-drama Monk. A leitmotif he heard in the television show was “Trudy’s Theme”, named after the main character’s deceased wife whose murderer is sought after for the entirety of the series. 

“I am learning more about how you develop ideas and how those ideas can be put together,” Hartley said. “My mind kind of works like there is a ton of stuff going on at one time, so it’s good to try to focus that down and have ideas that are not cluttered together.”

Hartley will leave DCHS as one of the most decorated musicians in school history, having also been the first band member from the school to achieve All-State status two years ago.