Award-Winning Poway Trombonist Staying Home, Even if School Reopens

Ryan Whitson has too much riding on his lungs

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“It’s a dream come true.”

That’s the simplest way Ryan Whitson could describe how he felt when the National Association for Music Educators selected him to play with the All-National Honor Ensemble Symphony Orchestra in January. The Poway High School senior was the only high school musician from San Diego County chosen for the honor, which has him playing his bass trombone with roughly 120 other musicians from around the country.

Granted, it was all virtual. Their final performance was edited together from each high-schooler’s video, which was shot at home.

“It sounded great,” said the 18-year-old, who dabbles in mixing his own music on YouTube. “It was awesome. It’s a true honor.”

Whitson hasn’t performed with his classmates on campus since March of his junior year.

“It was tough at first,” Whitson said with a sigh.

Whitson noticed he was doing well in virtual classrooms, however.

“My grades are actually a lot better,” Whitson said, laughing.

That included his band classes. Whitson plays in five different bands or orchestras on campus, but those have been transformed to virtual jam sessions, which can be tedious.

Despite the difficulties, Whitson found comfort in staying home and finding ways to make those digital musical collaborations sound good. It also convinced him to stay home, even when Poway High School reopens.

“I did not want to take that risk,” Whitson said of contracting COVID-19. “My career could just stop. It could just end because of the lung damage.”

It’s hard to play a trombone without a good set of lungs.

“It’s probably best to stay home,” he concluded.

Whitson is already thinking about his future beyond high school. He’s waiting to hear from his dream college, where he hopes to be propelled into playing professionally with a symphony and hopefully as a film musician.

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