Area bands participate in spring Solo and Ensemble event

The woodwind trio, formed by eighth grade students Emily Sullivan, Anna Herberger and Brenna Lind, practices one last time before performing for the adjudicator. (Jane Bond/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — For any musical group to be successful, it is not only important to have strength collectively, it is also important for musicians to be strong individually.

The Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) Solo and Ensemble event is one of the ways young musicians can develop their skills, and it has been a tradition in Manistee County schools that has helped create strong music programs.

Many local students participated in the spring Solo and Ensemble event that took place on Saturday, representing Manistee Middle/High School, Kaleva Norman Dickson Schools and Bear Lake Schools. There were students from a total of 16 schools in the region.

Debe Mitchell, one of the District 1 MSBOA site chairs, said the event is a great chance for students to gain new perspectives from professional adjudicators.

“Solo and Ensemble experiences that these kids have — whether it’s at the middle school level or the high school level — are wonderful learning opportunities,” she said. “It’s a chance for them to hear somebody else give them special instruction, maybe another way to think about something. All of this is worthwhile in their growth to become stronger musicians.”

Mitchell said the event has significant benefit for students as well as their band programs.

“Once they get they get these skills, then comes the excitement of wanting to come again, wanting to do better, and it only turns into making their band programs stronger,” she said. “I highly recommend these types of fine arts events that are geared for the success and development of these young musicians who are blossoming.”

Students perform selections of their choice, and each student or group of students is evaluated by one judge and rated on a scale of 1 to 5. Medals are awarded to students who earn 1 or 2 ratings for each event. Many students play in multiple events, offering the possibility of solo work as well as small ensembles.

Manistee Area Public Schools director of bands Andrea Mack said there were 20 students from Manistee, performing in 25 events.

“They’ve been preparing specifically for this event since the end of (MSBOA District 1 Band and Orchestra Festival), which was at the beginning of March,” she said. “So we launched right into it that next week.”

Mack said although most of the students performing were middle school students, there were a couple of high school events.

“There are some high school events here because the high school event was snowed out, so we said if you wanted to go to state, there were two make-up dates,” she said. “We gave everyone in the district the option of coming to play here.”

The event helps create musicians who are more independent, said Mack.

“I think it’s important that they become independent musicians,” she explained. “When they are playing in band they can help each other out. When they come back to the band they are better players.”

Students also recognize the importance of the event, and many look forward to the event each year.

Manistee eighth grade students Anna Herberger, Brenna Lind and Emily Sullivan received a 1 rating for their woodwind trio, performing two works: “Auld Lang Syne” and “German Dance.”

“The first one is more of a traditional piece, and then the German Dance is more of a fun one,” said Sullivan, who plays the clarinet.

Herberger said a lot of preparation went into the two pieces, which provided a challenge for all three musicians.

“They are fun pieces to play but also kind of difficult in places, which is a good mix,” she said. “There were a lot of hard rhythms and notes to work through, so I learned a lot.”

The students said their performance was the result of many weeks of preparation, both in school and outside of class. Herberger and Sullivan study privately with former MAPS band director Cindy Swan-Eagan, in addition to the instruction they receive in school.

“We definitely feel ready going into it,” said Herberger.

Band director Brenna Richardson said she had around a dozen students performing in events that day, from Bear Lake and Brethren. She said their largest group was a quartet from Brethren, but they also had a few duets and several solos.

“It helps the kids develop their musicality, and at a rapid rate. They are forced to be really focused,” she said. “It gives them a chance to practice more outside of school than they may normally do, and of course there is that element of pressure that helps them improve.”

Results will be published in an upcoming edition of the News Advocate.

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