NewsMissoula County


Hellgate High School musicians pick up rare honor

Grace Gibson-Snyder
Veronica Stimpfling
Posted at 4:47 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 18:47:45-05

MISSOULA — Not only is it a highly-regarded honor, but it is very difficult to be selected.

But for two Hellgate High School seniors who were recently chosen to the All-National Honor Ensemble, it all comes down to the music.

Cellist Grace Gibson-Snyder and Alto Saxophone player Veronica Stimpfling have gained national recognition thanks to their amazing talent.

“There are 12 cellists, so I’m one of 12. I’m proud of it for sure,” Gibson-Snyder said.

“Being able to make it into the National Honor ensemble, just made me feel so much more confident about myself. I got to be first alto, added Stimpfling.

Gibson-Snyder is one of only 120 selected for the All-National Honor Symphony Orchestra, while Snyder was one of less than 20 picked for the Jazz Ensemble.

Grace Gibson-Snyder
Hellgate High School Cellist Grace Gibson-Snyder

Receiving this kind of recognition comes with thousands of hours of practice and rehearsal over many years.

“I’ve practiced every day or gone to rehearsal every day for just over four years actually. I hit my anniversary last weekend,” Gibson-Snyder told MTN News.

Stimpfling and Gibson-Snyder have had great success throughout their high school careers, from all-state selections to participating in national events with the band and orchestra.

Both have had a lot of help from teachers and musicians along the way, but they say they wouldn’t be where they are without their high school music teachers, band director Leon Slater and orchestra director Ryan Davis.

“He just kind of like, challenged us. He would make us perform, make us play these hard pieces and it made me grow,” Stimpfling noted.

“Mr. Davis is amazing; I don’t even know how to describe it. We play a whole range of music from every style. They’re playing like a fiddle compilation in the background here,” Gibson-Snyder said.

Veronica Stimpfling
Hellgate High School Alto Saxophone player Veronica Stimpfling

Davis and Slater are more than eager to reciprocate their feelings.

“I’m really proud of all that she’s accomplished, and yes some of it is talent, but I think a lot of it is hard work,” Davis said.

“To have a student like Veronica just latch onto it, connect with it and become so passionate about it, it means the world,” Slater added.

The All-National Honor Ensembles annually gathers in November in Florida for live concerts, but due to COVID-19 concerns, this year the concert was over Zoom.

Both the Jazz and Symphony Orchestra concerts can be found on YouTube.