Erin Renshaw: A Beast on the Bass


Merideth Langton

Senior Erin Renshaw plays first chair base in Kennedy’s annual Symphonic Rock Concert.

From honor orchestras to All-State, senior Erin Renshaw has been widely recognized as an outstanding instrumentalist. Renshaw began her musical career in middle school, just a few years before she would achieve the first of four consecutive All-State acceptances.

Renshaw had never played an instrument before, learning bass from her middle school director. She found the musical environment to be a place where she was comfortable.

“I was all new to orchestra when I started in middle school but music was a class that I could sort of relax in,” Renshaw said. “It was a nice break from this whole new school structure and the amount of friends I had in the orchestra just made it really fun to go. It was really fun to meet and get to know everyone so I stayed.”

As she continued to learn from the Taft Middle School band program, Renshaw found she wanted to do more with the bass. To enhance her abilities, she took lessons with former Kennedy Orchestra Director John Hall.

“Erin has been my private student for five or six years and it’s been great,” Hall said. “When she came to me she didn’t have much experience but we worked through the curriculum I use with my private students and she has worked her way up.”

Renshaw began participating in honor orchestras around the city and state as her bass skills improved.

“In sixth grade, I started at the metro orchestra which performs down at the Paramount and I’ve been doing that ever since,” Resnshaw said. “As I got older and got better I started joining honor orchestras. I even auditioned for All-State my freshman year and got in.”

All-State is a competitive honor band that holds auditions throughout the state of Iowa. The Iowa High School Music Association hand-selects the most talented musicians in the state, many of whom prepare for their audition months in advance.

“[She] earned her way into All-State four years in a row. This year she was first chair in the all-state band, I believe she was first chair at the NIESTA festival last year,” Hall said, referring to a highly accredited honor orchestra. “She works very hard and is very active.”

Freshmen rarely audition for contests such as all-state because they do not have the level of experience to perform such difficult music. When they do, it is rare for freshmen to be able to compete against people who are up to four years older.

“Before my first all-state audition everyone had told me I wasn’t going to get in, so I wasn’t worried,” Renshaw said. “I was just doing it to get better and for the experience. I think that mindset helped me. Especially because during my senior year when I thought I was definitely getting in I ended up making alternate.”

Renshaw makes an effort to stay loose before her audition, finding anxiety hinders her performance.

“I try to prepare for my auditions a lot,” Renshaw said. “I give myself 15 minutes to relax before an audition and usually I’ll play a little song to calm me down. I usually go to Viva La Vida because it’s such a great song. It loosens me up.”

Renshaw was accepted into All-State all four years of her high school career, making alternate her senior year. It worked out in her favor as she was able to take another bassist’s spot and proceeded to achieve first chair.

“A lot of getting into orchestra and honor orchestras really depends on the audition,” Renshaw said. “For all-state, I had a really bad audition to get in but when we got there I had a really good audition and made first chair. You can’t let those bad auditions get to you.”

Renshaw has had a positive impact on the Kennedy’s Orchestra Department and can carry the lessons she learned into her future.

“I really enjoyed being her teacher,” Hall said. “She will be moving on at the end of this year, going to college. It has really been an enjoyable experience to be her teacher and to get to know her over the years we have worked together. I wish her all the best in life, she has many options to explore.”

Renshaw has decided not to major in music in college but she will continue to play bass post-graduation and foster her love for music.

“[I will] definitely continue with music,” Renshaw said. “It’s one of those things that if you play an instrument or sing you find a greater appreciation for the music around you.”