GREENVILLE – The Greenville Middle School (GMS) Concert Band was selected as the only middle school concert band, and one of 36 featured performing ensembles at the 2017 Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA) Professional Development Conference, in Cleveland, Ohio, Thursday, Feb. 2.
The event took place at the Huntington Cleveland Convention Center. According to School Band Director Brian McKibben, more than 150 schools/ensembles went through a blind audition process.
“It is truly a tremendous honor to represent one of Ohio’s rural school districts, and to be the first band from Darke County to be selected since 1997,” McKibben said. “Our students represent some of the finest student-performers in Ohio.”
The one-day trip left the school around 5 a.m. to perform around 12:30. McKibben said they were fortunate to receive about $7,000 in donations from some community members for the trip to cover expenses, such as transportation and meals. To prepare for the concert, in addition to normal classroom practices, the seventh and eighth-grade band members met on Fridays after school and some over Christmas break. More recently, they had practiced first thing in the mornings and on Saturdays.
“The kids have been really great and the parents too,” McKibben said. “It is not ordinary to practice that much outside the school day.”
The Concert Band prepared six pieces of music for this performance. In addition, a commissioned piece, composed by composer, conductor, and music teacher Carl Holmquist, of Annandale,Virginia, was premiered at the Cleveland performance and dedicated to the GMS Concert Band. According to McKibben, Holmquist met with Greenville Senior High School Director of Bands Erick Von Sas in a workshop last summer. Through that connection, McKibben and Holmquist embarked on a project to honor the Concert Band.
“This was the first time they had that music in front of them – just for them,” McKibben said. “When that piece is published, it will say ‘Fallen Timbers’, commissioned by the Greenville Middle School Concert band’. It’s kind of a living legacy of this performance.”
Holmquist said he loves finding ways to make a commissioned work special for the ensemble, so he did a little research into the history of the Greenville, Ohio area.
“I learned about the Treaty of Greenville (1795) and the Battle of Fallen Timbers and thought that using that as inspiration for the piece would be a great way for a band from Greenville to represent their area in Cleveland at this conference,” he said. “The work is not intended to depict the battle, but it attempts to evoke the confluence of Native American and European cultures that was taking place in that time and in that place.”
Holmquist attended the performance.
“The experience for all involved, myself as the composer, the students as performers, the conductor as the teacher and interpreter and the audience as witnesses, is very rich and it is always such a thrill to be there when the music is brought to life,” he said. “I would like to say ‘thank you, from the bottom of my heart to Brian, to the administration of Greenville Middle School, and most importantly to the students for their support, hard work, and trust in me, for allowing me to be a part of this momentous performance for this band program.”
McKibben, a trombone player in his 18th year as a band director said the longer he teaches, the more it is about motivating and inspiring his students – just what this trip was all about.
“Taking a shot and doing this audition at a state conference and putting a program together is something these kids will remember for a long time,” he said. “I think at this level, sometimes we underestimate the abilities of this age group. I just love working with them – there is so much potential there, and if you can get them to buy in and want to be better, it really is a neat thing.
“Our students represented themselves, their families, our band program, and our school district in a remarkable way,” he said. “Mr. Von Sas and I are extremely proud of how they performed and how they handled themselves the entire day. They are an example of how we want to see all of our bands in the future here at Greenville.”
The GMS Concert Band will perform, Sunday, Feb. 26, at the K-8 Community Open House and Dedication of the new school. The dedication takes place at 2 p.m., followed by the band performance at approx 3:15 p.m.