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Schools come together for honors band, choir performance

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Photos by Andrew Christman / Wabash Plain Dealer
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by ANDREW CHRISTMAN - achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

The Honeywell Center played host to the 44th annual Wabash County Honors Band and Choir Concert on Friday evening.

The concert acted as the first scheduled event during “National Music in Our Schools” month for the National Association of Music Educators. Across the county, honors bands and choirs gather in a spirit of collaboration, according to coordinator Susan Keefer.

“We’ve kept the standards very high for our students, allowing them to get an experience they probably wouldn’t have in their own school,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring our county schools together in the spirit of non-competitiveness to learn music and take pleasure in learning a challenging repertoire.”

Northfield director Mark Nevil stated all the students taking part learn a semester’s worth of music over the span of seven rehearsals.

“The music that is chosen is the Group 1 list, which is the highest grade level you can perform,” Nevil said. “The exciting thing to me is that students who come in unsure of themselves can draw upon the strength of those who have been in it before.”

Among the students building each other up on the choir side are seniors Madison Nevil of Northfield and Tyler Robison of Southwood. Both students stated the concert has helped teach them the meaning of community.

“I’ve learned it’s important to really work together because we have to be on the same page. I feel it’s brought us and our schools closer, and we’ve developed relationships for life,” Madison Nevil said.

“When you’re in a classroom or your own school, it’s a very select few people you’re working and communicating with,” Robinson said. “This (the concert) allows you to work with more people, people you would otherwise have no contact with, and to be able to come together in a short amount of time and pull out an amazing concert kind of shows you what we’re about and how well we seem to be able to get together over a subject we have in common.”

Both students agreed that taking part in the concert has broadened their musicianship and cultures, such as by learning Latin pieces to perform. With each student taking part in the concert for four years, both expressed a range of emotions with this being their last year.

“You get to experience this music with people who have the same passions as you, and you kind of get on this musical high and it’s great. It’s kind of sad for me, but I hope I can have another experience like this in my life,” Madison Nevil said.

“I’m proud to know that this will still be going on and getting to see what the next three years are going to be like. I’m proud they are taking this step and building and developing like we have,” Robison said.

On band side of things, senior Allen Warren of Southwood and Alexa Donathon of Manchester shared their experience with the concert.

“This is my third year taking part, and I regret that I won’t be able to play with some of my younger friends. It’s been great to be with and play with other people from across the county,” Warren said. “We all have this bond of music and everyone is friendly.”

Warren described getting to take part in the concert for the first time as an overall great experience.

“It’s been amazing getting to know everyone and playing with new people,” she said. “It’s a laid back atmosphere, but the music is aggressive and you have to push yourself to keep up.”

Warren added she is interested in returning for future concerts, while Allen stated he will likely return as an observer to continue supporting the program.

Along with performing together, students taking part receive exposure to collegiate levels of directing, as university professors are brought in annually to conduct and direct.

Chris Hickman, director of Southwood and the coordinator for the band aspect of the concert, stated that during his 35 years of taking part, he has seen students look forward to pushing themselves and bonding with each other from across the county.

“There’s a sense of coming together and playing under someone other than they are used to, who brings a new perspective to music,” he said. “They work harder here than they do while in school. This is college-level music being performed, and I feel it sometimes inspires students to go into music.”

Keefer stated she has witnessed students go on to join the bands and choirs of the directors before in the past. Warren stated he will be attending Ball State University in the fall, and because of the concert, he has had a chance to get to know a professor he will likely encounter on a regular basis before starting school.

Directors for this year’s concert were Drs. Debra Lynn and Caroline Hand.