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Rising Artists: Billings Central Band president pulling double-duty in orchestra

By Casey Conlon,


It wasn’t the smoothest start to Barbara Twichel’s relationship with the trumpet.

"Honestly, I panicked," Twichel said when asked in the 6th grade what instrument she wanted to play.

The first few weeks were rough.

"I got the making noise part down," she said, "but making the correct noises, that took some time." CASEY CONLON / MTN News
Barbara Twichel reads music from her iPad while practicing trumpet in the Billings Central band room.

She’s come a long way, and not just musically.

"Barbara as a freshman was very quiet, very shy, kept to herself," said Branden Martinez, Twichel's music teacher at Billings Central High School. "Now, she’s president of the band. She's not afraid to direct the band when I'm gone. You'll see her running pep band a lot of the time."

"Absolutely it gets overwhelming," the senior said of all her responsibilities. "But I’ve chosen it to be a part of my life, and honestly I don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s brought me so many friends and so many experiences."

Including some she never dreamed of, or even thought possible.

"Going into my junior year, I signed up for film editing class, but it was only available the same period as band, so I stuck with band," Twichel said. "Without rearranging my schedule, the only class available sixth period was orchestra. After a week of using it as a study hall, Mr. Martinez asked, 'Do you want to learn bass?'"

"And she said, 'Like the big violin?'" Martinez remembered. "Yeah, that's the double bass."

"He said, 'I don’t really know how to teach you the instrument,'" Twichel continued. "'So I’ll give you these books and you can figure it out.'" CASEY CONLON / MTN News
The double bass stands about a foot taller than Billings Central senior Barbara Twichel, always making for an interesting photo.

She has. Twichel’s life now involves hours of trumpet practice at home and bass practice at school, because there’s no getting it home.

"It won’t fit in my car," she said with a laugh.

"I gave her a case this year, a backpack case," Martinez said. "To see her put the backpack case on with a double bass, and it's towering three feet above her, and it's three feet wider than she is, it makes me chuckle."

But it also makes Martinez beam with pride, especially knowing music will be Twichel’s lifelong love.

"It’s inspired me to learn as many instruments as possible," she said. "When I got thrown into that last year, I said even though it's in an entirely different clef and key, it's possible. I can do it. It might be difficult, but I sure will get it done somehow."

Would you doubt her? CASEY CONLON / MTN News
Billings Central senior Barbara Twichel is self-taught on the double bass, after her high school music teacher asked her to learn it at the beginning of her junior year.

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