Dr. Kenneth Laudermilch works with the PMEA District 12 Band. Photos Karolis Panavas/The SPOKE
It was around 12:15 p.m. on Jan. 13 when the sounds of musical instruments working their magic ceased and almost 125 students rushed out of the auditorium and hurried to the cafeteria. Of these musicians, 10 were from ‘Stoga, but most came from other local high schools. They were taking a break from the day-long practice that is part of the experience of the Pennsylvania Music Educators’ Association (PMEA) District 12 Band.
The festival, which took place from Jan. 12-14 at Conestoga, featured woodwind, brass and percussion players from many different school districts. The ensemble represents a few students from each high school in the district, and the PMEA organization splits Pennsylvania into 12 such districts.The ensemble for District 12 practiced in ‘Stoga’s auditorium on Thursday night, all day Friday and on Saturday morning.
They then performed at 2 p.m. on Saturday in a concert that included marches by John Philip Sousa, a George Gershwin medley and a tribute to Stephen Foster. Leading the band were Dr. Kenneth Laudermilch, a professional conductor and trumpet player who conducted most of the program, and Conestoga’s band directors Anthony DiLella and William Seaton, who conducted the “Salute to PMEA” by A.D. Davenport and the national anthem, respectively.
According to marching band director Anthony DiLella, 38 schools’ students attended the event. Representing Conestoga were seniors Sara Burns, Emily Schertzer, Jonathan Yu, Sebastian Ritz and Logan Whelan, juniors Amanda Marotto, Pheobe Wang, Maya Jankowska and Soonsoo Park and sophomore Lavi Ben-Dor.
DiLella said that he thinks that hosting the event was beneficial to both the participants and the Conestoga community as a whole.
“Conestoga has 10 students performing in this ensemble that all made it through competitive audition,” he said. “I think not only do they get an experience, but I think our school and our community gets an experience of having an ensemble like this play.”
This has been the first year in a long time that ‘Stoga has held the festival. DiLella said that the best part about about hosting the festival was that it allowed Conestoga’s musicians to appreciate the high caliber of the band.
The ensemble included about 125 sophomore, junior and senior musicians from 38 schools around the area.
“I think that it’s great for our current students to watch what’s going on on stage,” DiLella said. “They get an idea of what it’s like to play an ensemble at this level and what it’s like to have an ensemble like this. This is the best of the best from all the school districts.”
Flautist junior Amanda Marotto, who participated in the event, said that in order to be allowed to partake in the festival, ‘Stoga students had to meet certain requirements.
“In December, everyone auditioned on a solo, which is selected by the District 12 representatives, and you also have to prepare scales and site reading,” Marotto said.
Once the students auditioned on Dec. 10 at Rustin High School, the results, which announced who had earned the highest scores and would attend the festival, were posted a few days later. Sixty percent of each student’s final score depended on how well the students ranked in this audition.
The students who qualified for district band were given the music that they would perform at the festival and re-auditioned on the first day of the event. This re-audition score counted as 40 percent of the final score. The total score determined the seating of the attending students.
“They gave us our music about a month ago and we had to practice it beforehand to prepare for the festival because we only have pretty much a day to rehearse with everyone,” Marotto said.
Overall, junior clarinetist Maya Jankowska felt the festival went very smoothly.
“It was a really fun festival,” she said. “It’s a great time hanging out with people from your school and meeting all these other cool kids, and the ensemble sounds amazing by the end.”
For Jankowska, having the festival at Conestoga was strange at first.
“It was a little bit weird because I remember last year I went to districts and it was held at someone else’s school,” Jankowska said. “So, you would have to get used to where everything was.”
Because ‘Stoga hosted the festival this year, DiLella hopes that the students will have a greater appreciation for music.
“As a conductor, when I conduct the bands, they have me for four years, and I think it’s valuable for them to have someone else, for them to see how someone else has a different interpretation,” DiLella said. “I think it’s a great learning experience for them and if I think anything, they’ll come out with a bigger appreciation of music and I think they’ll come out understanding and knowing more about music than they would just by participating in the regular ensembles.”
Now that the festival is over, some of the participants get to advance to the next level, which is region band. Three students from Conestoga will attend the festival. One of those students, senior clarinetist Sara Burns, is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m excited,” Burns said. “I already started looking at the music and it is very challenging, so we’ll see how that goes. I am just going to give it my best. I am going to practice really hard [and] try and make the best of it.”
Burns hopes that Region VI Band, which will take place from Feb. 16-18 at Octorara High School, will have a positive turnout.
“I think that it’s definitely going to be a good group, obviously, with the caliber of players that we have going into it,” Burns said. “I just hope that it goes well [and] goes smoothly.”