High school band festival marches on to campus

Nahiomy Gallardo/The News Conductor Timothy Rhea leads the Symphony Band during this last weekend’s festivities.

Story by Taylor Inman, Staff writer

Nahiomy Gallardo/The News Conductor Timothy Rhea leads the Symphony Band during this last weekend’s festivities.

Nahiomy Gallardo/The News
Conductor Timothy Rhea leads the Symphony Band during this last weekend’s festivities.

Murray State’s Music Department hosted its annual Quad-State Senior High Band festival last weekend, which brought hundreds of aspiring high school musicians to campus to learn from Murray State’s most qualified teachers and veteran saxophonist and clinician Lynn Klock, who also performed as a guest soloist.

The festival held three performances over their three-day music festival, a performance by Murray State’s Jazz Band on Thursday, Murray State’s Wind Ensemble with Klock on Friday and the high school honor bands’ performances on Saturday.

Dennis Johnson, director of bands and orchestra, said it’s not easy to get into this program. The high school students have to be nominated to even audition, but they have a good reason for working so hard to be there.

“It’s the tradition; it’s probably one of the oldest, continuous-running festivals in the south,” Johnson said. “So I think it has a strong reputation with students and band directors who know the quality of the program.”

The program separates high school band students into four different honor bands through an audition process: The Symphony Band, Blue Band, Gold Band and White Band. Quad-State has only grown in the past years. So much so that Johnson said there used to only be three honor bands when he started teaching at Murray State.

“We were having 70 schools here; that kind of limits how many from a school can participate,” Johnson said. “We heard from band directors that they had many more students sitting at home that would have benefited from this. So we decided to expand this so more students could take part.”

Allison Kidd, senior at Marshall County High School, played clarinet in Quad-State’s White Band. She said that it’s not an easy feat to get to Quad-State.

“First you have to be good enough to be suggested and then if you get picked you have to work hard for your audition,” Kidd said. “If you place well, your hard work paid off.”

Guest soloist Klock, a  professor of saxophone at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, uses his performance-driven background and work ethic to teach his students about music, constantly playing with his students to help teach them.

  “I think it’s for the advantage of my students that they see me working as hard as I do. I think it would be great if every teacher had an outlet to perform themselves,” Klock said. “It’s real easy to say you should practice, but it’s hard work. There’s something about the director making music themselves that makes it more part of the art.”

Klock has frequently toured as a soloist and with symphonic bands, he’s performed in venues as large as Carnegie Hall.  He said that being part of something bigger than yourself is good for students.

“Making music and being parts of those sounds; generally, you can be part of a high-quality musical experience when you’re with a lot of people, cause it’s not just on you to play,” Klock said. “Experiencing things at a high quality level is one of the best things that can happen to any student.”

Johnson said that concert band can be put in the same category as sports when it comes to achieving success as a group.

“It’s a way that they can participate in a group and achieve success,” Johnson said. “When it comes to music, you enter events that are judged and you go to those and have success as an ensemble, you don’t simply go out and play solos. The ensemble is as good as their players and conductors.”

Johnson introduced Klock to Murray State’s Wind Ensemble at a Thursday afternoon rehearsal. The band listened intently as the two professionals bounced back and forth about hard work and their experiences in concert band.

   But then their work talk devolved into funny memories and stories that made the entire ensemble laugh. And from that moment it was just what everyone in the room knew so well: band.

Johnson laughed and stepped up on the podium, “Hey, let’s make some music.”