Music inspires students at District 9 Band Fest

Select area musicians performed Friday evening at Blue Ridge High School, New Milford, as part of the PMEA District 9 Band Festival. The band was under the direction of guest conductor Terry Alvey, Instrumental Music Director of Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, Md. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON


The area’s finest musicians came together last week at Blue Ridge High School for the PMEA District 9 Band Festival.

The three-day event culminated with a Friday, Jan. 25 performance led by guest conductor, Terry Alvey, Instrumental Music Director at Walt Whitman High School, Bethesday, Md.

Following the concert, Alvey said, “I could not be happier given the rigor of the last couple of days… they made some beautiful music.”

The band played nine selections, starting with the Star-Spangled Banner and Salute to P.M.E.A. March.

Other selections included the powerful and poignant, “Symphonic Prelude (The Cemtery at Colleville-Sur-Mer)” by Mark Camphouse, a piece inspired by the Normandy American Cemetery in France overlooking Omaha Beach, as well as arrangements of “Caresse,” by Thomas Asanger; “Evokatah,” by Michael Mogensen; “Enigma Variations,” by Edward Elgar; “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” by Leroy Anderson; and “Fandango” by Frank Perkins.

The concert ended with Richard Saucedo’s “American Barndance,” a lyrical, energetic and powerful piece of music.

Montrose Area High School clarinetist Mollie Host, performed Friday as part of the PMEA District 9 Band Concert. PMEA Scholarships were awarded to Host and Meg Markwith, an oboe player from Wyoming Valley West High School. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

PMEA Scholarships were awarded to Mollie Host, clarinet, Montrose Area High School; and Meg Markwith, oboe, Wyoming Valley West High School. District 9 President Nino Bennici announced the scholarship recipients during the concert.

“I hope they had a great musical experience,” she said. “I know they are going to leave here being better musicians.”

Hazleton Band Director Neil Forte said the chance to travel to festivals does benefit the students.

“It gives them more experience playing with various groups and students from other schools, as well as working with conductors’ various approaches to music.

Susquehanna Community Band Director Teresa Marino agreed. “(Students) get to perform at an entirely different level than in their own school – from the size of the band to different and more difficult music – they won’t get that at home. And having a different director at the top of their field is an added benefit.”

But the benefits don’t stop with the students who attend the District 8 Band Festival, Forte said.

Eight of Forte’s students earned a place in Districts; Marino had one student attend the festival.

“It’s a whole new musical world he’s just been exposed to,” Marino said.

“They bring an energy back to their school,” he said. “It goes from them to other students.”

Blue Ridge High School Band Director Vincent LoRusso coordinated this year’s District 9 Band Festival.

“It’s time-consuming,” he said, “but with a group of students as pleasant and talented as the ones this week – every late night and early morning was worth it.”

LoRusso also said it was a collaborative effort with the school, community, local businesses and other the other music directors. LoRusso included special appreciation to Blue Ridge music staff: Jay Thornton, Amy Zakarauskas and Kristen Burkhart; as well as Montrose music teachers Nino and Suzanne Bennici.

“And I could not have had a better guest conductor,” LoRusso said. Prior to coming to Blue Ridge, LoRusso worked with Alvey in Maryland.

Of the students she had for three days, Alvey said, “I hope they are inspired to live with their instruments a little bit more – to take it to the next level. And I hope they keep music in their lives.”

Students from Susquehanna County that participated in the PMEA District 9 Band Festival are:

Flute: Ashley Distad, Montrose

Bassoon: Sarita Farnelli, Elk Lake; Keegan Ficarro, Mt. View

Bass Clarinet: Jacob Kerbaugh, Montrose

Clarinet: Mollie Host, Montrose; Rebekah Ball, Montrose; Doria Miller, Forest City; Alyssa Hewitt, Elk Lake; Kyle Rivenburgh, Blue Ridge; Daniel Staros, Susquehanna

French Horn: Samantha Bennici, Montrose

Cornet: Donald Arnold, Montrose

Trombone: Ryan Brown

Percussion: Tyler Marvin, Blue Ridge; Sonny Albright, Forest City; Allen Weed, Blue Ridge.