The annual Southern Oregon Regional Middle School Honor Band concert was held on Sunday, October 27, in the Music Department Recital Hall at Southern Oregon University. The event was hosted by the SOU Department of Performing Arts and arranged by Dr. Cynthia Hutton, who is a music professor and conductor at SOU.
The Middle School Honor band consisted of 128 students, as well as regional middle school band directors Jenifer Carstensen, Patrick Mc Lain and John Pecorilla.
Hutton brings in a distinguished composer for the concert every year, with this year’s composer and guest clinician being Pierre La Plante. The music performed by the Honor Band was written by La Plante. “He’s one of the most important education composers and writes a lot of music for kids at different levels of development, so we did music appropriate for a middle school band,” said Hutton.
“I want these middle school students to realize that all composers aren’t dead. [The students] get to work on the music with the person that created the music and there’s a real symbiotic relationship between the creator and the re-creator. And that’s what we musicians are; we’re the re-creators. This collaboration between creator and re-creator is something I want these kids to know that they can do for the rest of their lives,” explained Dr. Hutton of the Honor Band’s unique opportunity to be able to work with the composer of their music, La Plante.
“We had 18 schools represented from the Southern Oregon region. It incorporated four counties: Josephine, Klamath, Douglas, and Jackson. The students [arrived] at eight in the morning on Saturday. We rehearsed all day and then we did our performance at four o’clock in the afternoon with all their parents here. It was a good fun day for all of the kids,” said Hutton.
In the beginning of the school year, band directors throughout the Southern Oregon middle
schools are invited to nominate the top two to three percent of their band students to participate in the Middle School Honor Band concert. Then, depending on the instrument, the students practice their specific part of the music up until the concert day. All of the instruments are not practiced together until the day of the concert. “They’ve been working with [only] their own instruments and then they get here and all of the instruments play the music with the consort of 128 people instead of just their 5 or 6 students. And that in itself is an almost overwhelming experience for them; none of these kids have ever been in anything that large or to hear how their part fits with everything else,” said Hutton.
The undergraduate music majors at SOU helped with the behind the scenes aspects of the concert, which included giving the middle school honor band directions and setting up and tearing down the lunch for the day. Along with the behind the scenes help, the college band also performed in the concert.
The annual concert has been held for about 16 years. “We do this every year, the teachers and the students really look forward to it because some of these band programs are pretty small in the middle schools in our area and so for them to go from playing with maybe 15 kids in their own school band and come and be a part of something that’s 128 is really a big deal,” said Hutton.