Bassoon tucked into his backpack case and oboe in hand at his side, Mark Lauer heads off from three hours rehearsing with the Jefferson City High School Symphonic Band and Concert Band to tutor beginners in the Lewis and Clark Middle School Band.
"There's no more personal way to communicate than through the arts," Lauer said. "It bypasses language barriers and speaks to your soul."
The Jefferson City High School senior plays four instruments in five performance ensembles. He's president of the Tri-M music honors society and historian of the Jay Band.
Yet he also finds time to be an A+ Program tutor and he gives lessons to a 10-year-old bassoonist at Blair Oaks.
Recently, even in the middle of the marching band season, Lauer was among 41 band members selected for the district honors band.
This was his fourth year to earn first chair in bassoon, his third year to take first chair on baritone saxophone and second year to make the jazz band with alto saxophone.
Keeping perspective, Lauer praised a fellow musician he met at last year's All-State Band who earned first-chair on four instruments in his district.
But the greatest musical honor he has received thus far came in June, when he was placed as second bassoon in the national MENC Honor Band, which performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., before thousands, Lauer said.
"The level of all the players in that group, and the emotion and the intensity they played with, was phenomenal," Lauer said. "It's those moments musicians live for - you communicate to your audience on a level words can't say."
From his tutoring, Lauer found he enjoys teaching.
"It's an interesting experience," Lauer said. "It's not as simple as, "If you know it, you can teach it.'
"There's stuff you do every day and don't think about. But teaching is explaining it."
Lauer hopes to earn a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in performance.
"We have many talented young people," said Paul Hinman, director of bands. "Mark is a perfect example of dedication, hard work and integrity.
"His artistic level and desire to excel are there every day, and his peers and teachers see it.
"He sets a great example, not so much by what he says but what he does."
Not really pursuing the idea tion for Tri-M.
The organization participates in the high school's annual Jack-o-lantern Jam (6-8 p.m. today), a college banquet for music programs and field trips to professional music performances.
"They hadn't done as much as I had hoped," Lauer said. "So I raised my hand and asked if there's anyway I can help - I didn't realize what I had gotten into."
The music honors society is enjoyable because of the talent at the school, Lauer said.
"Most people go to school and hate it," Lauer said. "Even on my worst day, being in band is better than my best day without."
In Top Jazz, he plays baritone saxophone and alto sax in second jazz - both groups rehearse before and after school. During school, he plays bassoon in the symphonic band and oboe in the concert band.
"You never know when having that knowledge comes in handy," Lauer said. "But it comes down to the fundamental reason - playing music is just fun."
Plus, he takes his bassoon to weekly rehearsals with the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra, which he said is like "an Advanced Placement class" for music.
"People call me crazy," Lauer said. "But for me, it's a dream come true."