Top high school band students from the Tri-State area were joined by two clinicians, including one from Arkansas, to round out the roster for the Four-State Band Festival Thursday.
Students were invited to participate in the day based on their achievements as band members, and spent their day with clinicians Chris Bernotas, a high school band director and composer from New Jersey, and Tim Oliver, director of bands at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
Throughout the daytime hours students rehearsed note after note, perfecting each measure in preparation for a free concert at Memorial Auditorium that evening.
However, the day wasn't just work.
"I want you to enjoy this day and other days like this," Oliver told members of the Gold Band as they wrapped up morning rehearsals.
Oliver said he attended a small school with a band program that totaled fewer than 50 members most years, and noted that for many students present the large size of the band might be a new, and great, experience.
"Enjoy that you're playing music with 90 other people," he said.
Enjoyment really was the goal of the day, as about 200 of the area's highest-achieving band members made music together.
Each student was expected to practice individually, then work out the rough spots and be concert-ready by the end of a day of joint practice.
"It's easier than you might think," Oliver said. "You are able to speak together musically."
He said this does require preparation ahead of time, but that isn't a problem for the students selected for this type of honor.
"Clearly they have done that," Oliver said.
Festival director Craig Fuchs, who also is the director of the Honors College at Pittsburg State University, said the selection process begins with band director nominations, and the students with the most band-related honors are selected.
Page 2 of 3 - "I start with students who were in the all-state band," Fuchs said, adding that he then goes to all-district students and students with other types of honors.
The top-honored students play as the Crimson Band and the second round of students selected perform as the Gold Band.
Fuchs said this year he had so many percussionists apply that he offered an additional master class so those who were not selected for either brand could still have the opportunity to learn and hone their skills.
Fuchs said all of the students involved go home with additional experience.
This year, as in many years, the students also have the opportunity to play music under the direction of the music's composer.
Students played several pieces by Bernotas, who gave the students extra insight into his vision of how the music would be performed as he ran the rehearsal.
"They make great improvements in a short time," Fuchs said. "I think that's a neat opportunity for students to experience a bigger band."
Many high school students also return as Gorillas.
"It's a recruitment thing for us as well," Fuchs said.
Fuchs said about a third of his wind ensemble were part of the Four-State Band in high school, and many of his band members go on to be teachers who return with their own students.
Oliver said he and Fuchs have been friends for quite some time and he enjoys helping to promote Pitt State's programs.
"One of the things I hope they will get from it is an awareness of all the great things going on at Pitt State," Oliver said.
Both advocated that the festival, which is in its 30th year, is a great opportunity for the students, and Fuchs said it won't be slowing down anytime soon.
Page 3 of 3 - "I enjoy it every year," he said.