HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (2/29/12) – A tired, but thrilled, group of band students arrived home from New York City in the early morning hours Tuesday. The band was returning from a five-day trip to New York, which included trips to Central Park, The National Museum, Times Square, a dinner cruise under the Brooklyn Bridge to the Statue of Liberty, and two thrilling performances to large crowds in Carnegie Hall.
The Symphonic Band was selected by taped audition in August to perform as one of two Feature Showcase Ensembles, with the other being the California State University Long Beach Wind Symphony. Senior clarinetist Breanna Woodruff said her most memorable moment “was seeing the audience as we were entering the stage”.
The students performed to a large and enthusiastic crowd that spilled over from the house into the third tier balcony. “Knowing the history behind all the world’s greatest performers who through time had shared the same stage gave us a great feeling of accomplishment. It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity”.
The 45 member wind ensemble also rendered the World Premiere of Pasodobles para Santa Cecilia y los Heroes de Espana by world renowned composer Stephen Melillo who came to New York exclusively to work with the ensemble and conduct his piece in its Carnegie premiere. Band member Mollie Ables said working with Stephen Melillo was the most memorable part of the trip for her. “His energy and his approach brought out the music, not just the notes”. Melillo was very impressed with the band, saying “On top of everything else, from being polite, hard-working, dedicated young people, the Madisonville North Hopkins High School Band Members are just that…Musicians”. He went on to praise the students, staff, and parents stating “to say it was a pleasure to share Music-making with them falls short. It was a great honor and privilege. The Teachers are true Educators and the Parents are a treasure. What a great program and what great opportunities for these young musicians reside at Madisonville North Hopkins High School”.
Melillo’s music has been nominated for a Grammy Award four times and he was recently nominated for the famed Pulitzer Prize for his musical documentary “That We Might Live”. Melillo has conducted the world’s finest ensembles including the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, The Royal Band of the Netherlands Navy, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Concert Band which is comprised of all 120 musicians in the North Hopkins Band, performed earlier in the day at an exclusive invitation only adjudicated concert with four other bands from across the country.. In addition to a workshop on Saturday, each group received evaluations by a panel of adjudicators that included William V. Johnson, professor emeritus at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California. Upon hearing the symphonic band at their workshop, he lavished great praise on the ensemble saying they were “great, just great”. Also evaluating the bands were Dr. James W. McRoy, professor of music and Director of Bands at Long Island University and Dr. John Alan Carnahan, Director of Bands at the Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University Long Beach.
After their performance, each of the bands received an award based on that performance. The highest award was the Gold Award, reserved for bands that exhibit the highest level of musical achievement. Other awards were the Silver Award and the Bronze Award. Two bands achieved the level of Gold with the Madisonville North Hopkins High School Concert Band as one and the Whitney F. Young Magnet School for the Performing Arts out of Chicago receiving the other. Evergreen Valley High School Wind Ensemble from San Jose, CA received a Silver Award, and Irvington High School from Irvington, NY and Monrovia High School from Monrovia, CA received Bronze Awards.
Monrovia High School had some students unable to attend the festival at the last minute and lacked a tubist, a bass trombonist, and 4 percussionists. Madisonville North Hopkins Concert Band Members Ryan Clemens, Brad Todd, Cole McClure, Hunter Sanders, Jesse Martin, Kyle Ramsey, and Nathan Porter filled those empty seats enabling Monrovia to have all their parts covered. “It was pretty cool to meet students from another band, and was fun to perform with them as well” said percussionist Hunter Sanders.
The North Hopkins Concert Band also presented a world premiere by New York composer Anthony Barfield, who was in attendance at the concert. The work, entitled “Here We Rest” was written to commemorate the tornado victims from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The work was scored for trombone soloist and band, and featured University of Alabama Trombone Professor (and Benton, KY native) Dr. Jon Whitaker.
While the North Hopkins Band is known throughout the community and statewide for their 7-time State Champion Marching band, Band Director Rob Bryant notes the importance of the concert band. “The concert band and symphonic band are where the students gain the most as far as music-making. After the symphonic band performed their first selection “Alleluia Laudamus Te!” by Alfred Reed, many students were so moved by their performance that emotions spilled over into the occasional tear. “That’s what great music does, it touches people, it evokes emotion, and it has inner meaning that touches the soul” continues Bryant. North Hopkins Alumni John-Morgan Bush who recently completed his Master of Music Degree from the Manhattan School of Music was in attendance at the concert and had this to say: “the students were focused on their performance, and the result was a strong, artistic interpretation of both new and standard works for the wind band repertoire. As I regularly work with youth in various pre-college programs, both in New York City as well as around the state, I can attest that the performance that the Madisonville students gave last night was of a caliber rarely seen in youth ensembles in New York. It made me quite proud.”
The Maroon Band Boosters were crucial to the planning and funding of the trip. Booster President Brad Downall coordinated trip details, chaperone duties, and in some cases acted as a tour guide. A large contingency of parents accompanied the group. Misti Hodges, whose daughter Skylar Stanley plays French horn in both the concert and symphonic bands said “after the band began their performance there were both goosebumps and tears”.
Several local businesses made donations to help offset the cost of the trip, including Carhartt, J. Craig Riddle Company, Hanner Machine Company, McCoy & McCoy Laboratories, Metalsa, Land O’ Frost, Shelby Tires, Randall L. Franklin, CPA, Plastic Surgery Center, Superior Tank Company, Quality Fabrication Inc., Batsel Appraisal Service, Daugherty Trucking, Pediatric Health Group, Mike’s Corner Garage, Alcan, Action Equipment Sales, Souther Health Partners, Tyson Foods, Dr. Lucy S. Crain, Skateworld, Dr. Mike Fisher, U.S. Bank, Peeler Pharmacy, Scott Heavy Equipment, and Pioneer Supply all of which donated $100 or more toward the student’s trip.
The bands will present a concert this spring and will perform the works listed plus additional pieces.
Information provided by Rob Bryant
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