PMEA District 9 Band occupies Montrose

PMEA District 9 Band guest conductor Cheryl Boga, directs the concert band in a selection featuring the flute section. Montrose’s Ashley Distad was a featured soloist in the piece. STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

PMEA District 9 Band guest conductor Cheryl Boga, directs the concert band in a selection featuring the flute section. Montrose’s Ashley Distad was a featured soloist in the piece. STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

BY PAT FARNELLI

The PMEA District 9 Band Festival was held on Friday at the Montrose Area High School Auditorium, with student performers from 35 public, private and college preparatory

District 9 includes schools in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming Counties. There are 12 PMEA districts and six regions.

To earn a spot in the district band, tenth grade through twelfth grade students

Tony Bennici, principal cornet, of Montrose; Chris Lewis, tenor sax, of Wallenpaupack, and David Mirachi, alto sax, of Valley View, were featured improvisers on "Over the Rainbow," the encore selection of the District 9 band concert. STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

Tony Bennici, principal cornet, of Montrose; Chris Lewis, tenor sax, of Wallenpaupack, and David Mirachi, alto sax, of Valley View, were featured improvisers on “Over the Rainbow,” the encore selection of the District 9 band concert. STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

auditioned for a seat in the competitive band several months ahead of time, and upon arriving at Montrose auditioned again for their seat rank at Friday’s concert, as well as an opportunity to move on to the Regional Band Festival which will be held in March.

The host director was Suzanne Bennici of Montrose Area School District.
In her message, Bennici said, “Over the last few days, our school has been filled with talented and enthusiastic musicians…an experience like this is possible through the cooperation and support of many people. I would like to thank everyone who in any way helped to make this event a success.”

She noted, “After the music of today’s concert has faded, please remember the hard work and dedication that these students put forth to reach this level. Continue to support these and all children’s pursuit of a well rounded education that includes music.”

Montrose Area’s Tony Bennici, had several cornet solos during the District 9 Band Festival on Friday evening.

Montrose Area’s Tony Bennici, had several cornet solos during the District 9 Band Festival on Friday evening.

The concert began with the National Anthem and then the traditional concert march, “Salute to PMEA” by A.D. Davenport.

Guest conductor, Cheryl Boga was welcomed to the stage. Boga is the conductor and director of performance music at the University of Scranton, and founder and musical director of the World Premiere Composition Series there. She is responsible for all of the performing band, choir, orchestra, and string and brass groups at the university.

Boga is particularly noted for her dedication to the performance of new music and to the performance of composer Vaclav Nelhybel’s works.

The program featured a moving new composition called “An American Elegy,” which incorporates the Alma Mater of Columbine High School, where a tragic school shooting occurred.

The sacred choral piece, “O Magnum Misterium,” by Marten Laauridsen, was transcribed for band performance by H. Robert Reynolds.

“The Heart of the Morn” by H. Owen Reed featured soloist Ashley Distad of Montrose on the flute.

The traditional tune “Greensleeves,” also known as “What Child is This,” was familiar to most audience members, who were appreciative of its expressive melody.

The most difficult piece was “Trittico” by Vaclav Nelhybel. Two movements of Trittico, which Boga described as “apocalyptic and intricate.”

The PMEA District Band Festival was held on Friday at the Montrose Area High School Auditorium, comprised of 35 public, private and college preparatory schools in the region. STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

The PMEA District Band Festival was held on Friday at the Montrose Area High School Auditorium, comprised of 35 public, private and college preparatory schools in the region. STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

“Even before we lost rehearsal time due to weather, I was second guessing myself as to whether two movements of Trittico were more than what this band could handle. Even Wynton Marsalis labeled this among the top 10 most difficult band compositions ever written,” Boga said.

However, the students rose to the magnificent, complex task, receiving a standing ovation and call for an encore. Boga had the 10 percussionists come to the front of the stage for special applause, noting that each of them were precise, musical, disciplined, and a host of other positive adjectives, including “fun.”

For the encore, Boga chose “Over the Rainbow” from the score of the Wizard of Oz, but first called upon three students, the “jazziest” of their instrument sections, to come forward as soloist: Tony Bennici, cornet 1 of Montrose; David Mirarchi, alto saxophone, of Valley View; and Chris Lewis, tenor saxophone, of Wallenpaupack Area.

The three musicians took turns improvising at the lead while the band played along in accompaniment; the two saxes often playing in tandem, then giving Bennici a solo turn, with a brief session of all three talents playing separate riffs at once.

Students from Susquehanna County schools participating in PMEA District 9 band included:
Blue Ridge: Kyle Rivenburgh, clarinet.
Elk Lake: LaAnna Farnelli, French horn; Allyssa Hewitt, clarinet.
Forest City Regional: Katie O’Neill, flute.
Montrose Area: Ashley Distad, flute; Krista Quinn, clarinet; Ian Norton, baritone saxophone; Tony Bennici and Donnie Arnold, cornet; Samantha Bennici, Jessica Bulkley, Felicia Quinn, French horn; Sean Quinn, Chris Ricci, baritone horn.
Mountain View: Keegan Ficcaro, bassoon.
Susquehanna Community: Danny Staros, alto clarinet.