Five students from Southeast Bulloch High School’s concert band attended the 60th Annual University of Georgia JanFest held in Athens in January; and then five went to the 37th Annual Southeastern United States Honor Band Clinic, held at Troy State University in Troy, Ala., in early February.
Three students attended both events: trombonist Jeffrey Beasley, bassoonist Kassie Ormsby, and oboist Roger Allen Jr. Two others attended JanFest: trumpeter James Howell and alto saxophonist Nick Flott and two more went to Troy: percussionist James Varner and tenor saxophonist James Ferrell.
Nearly 1,500 band members from across Georgia went to JanFest. Upon arrival, the students were sent off to auditions all across the UGA campus and attended master classes for each of their instruments in the afternoon.
After lunch, they were split into eight separate bands, each consisting of 150 students. The students practiced from morning till night for the next two days. During their breaks, JanFest attendees were treated to special concerts. When the time finally came for concerts on Sunday, it was truly a marathon, lasting until late in the afternoon.
Students who went to JanFest were very positive. Howell said, “The master classes were great because I have never learned so much in such a short time. They told us about new techniques and suggestions that can only learned through experience.”
Flott called the master class with Patrick Sheridan “awesome.”
“He played The Flight of the Bumble Bee, waving at us with his hands while making all the sound changes just by pursing his lips,” Flott said. “On top of that, I learned a lot from him about how to better play the sax.”
Two weeks later, the SEB group left for Troy, Ala. Fewer than 500 students were selected from around the southeastern U.S., coming from schools as far away as Texas, North Carolina and Florida. Upon arrival, all of the band members were sent off for auditions.
In the afternoon, all musicians were placed in one of three bands, each of which consisted of 150 musicians. The selections were made according to each musician’s level of skill: the first level was the gold band, the middle the silver band, and the highest was the cardinal (or maroon) band.
In between the one and one-half days of orchestra rehearsals, attendees were entertained by concerts performed by Honor Bands from across the region, the Troy Jazz Ensemble, and the Troy Symphony Band. Then, it was time for their concerts. SEB students Beasley, Ferrell, Ormsby, and Varner performed first with Gold band concert, while Allen performed with the Silver band.
Like those who attended JanFest, the students had nothing but positive comments. Varner said: “Going to Troy made me realize what field of music I want to go into: music education. While I was there I was able to witness many forms and different compositions of music I never have heard anywhere else.”
Ferrell said, “I learned more about my horn in 15 hours than I had in an awfully long time. It seemed like we played non-stop, and all this made me want to practice a lot more on my horn because I saw how much improvement all that practicing made.”
The three SEB students who attended both clinics were pleased with the experience.
Ormsby said, “At JanFest I saw more bassoons at one time than I had ever seen before. In my master class, I learned things about my instrument that only other bassoonists could possibly know.”
At the clinic in Troy, Ormsby said she believed she was being spurred on to get better because “I’ve seen what really good players can do on a bassoon.”
Beasley agreed with Ormsby about the master classes at JanFest.
“We learned about posture. Only someone who’s played a trombone could figure how to get your muscles to let in more airflow once you get real tired.”
Beasley said, “At SEUS (Troy) the music was much harder. Some of it was abstract and kind of jarring, while some was lyrical, both smooth and flowing.”
Oboist Allen said about JanFest: “I felt awestruck at the number of students for whom music was their passion, and not just something they did on the side. On top of that, at JanFest I got to play with more oboists than I had ever even seen in my entire life.”
Matt Olsen, the SEB Band director said about the experiences for the students: “Ours is a small band. Being invited to go to JanFest and SEUS gave these students an opportunity to see what it feels like to swim in a really big pond. From what they’ve told me, it felt really good.”