Students from Tussey Mountain High School definitely “made a sound” this year at Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) District Band festival. Of the five students competing, four advanced to compete in the upcoming regional level competition. The PMEA District 5 Band event was held Feb. 13-15 at Everett Area High School.
Many hours of dedication went into preparing for the auditions. The students were given folders filled with music with which they were required to audition.
“Anything from the music could be their audition selections,” concert band teacher Bonnie Jenkins said. “The students will not know which selections they will have to play until the evening of auditions.”
They took time during study halls and free time at home to perfect their pieces to the best of their abilities.
“It was non-stop practicing,” sophomore Ryley Runk said.
“I practiced everyday,” junior Ethan Schneider added. “Sometimes [I practiced] three periods a day.”
“The second I got my music, I began practicing,” junior Kieran Gresko said. “We practiced for a couple months [prior to the district festival].”
Some students were apprehensive at first to take part in the event.
“I knew I wanted to do it but never thought much about it. I wanted the experience, but I didn’t have faith that I would get in,” Runk said. “However, [competing] shows you that not everybody is a winner, and that you may be good but can always strive to be better. I don’t regret a thing.”
Students competed for a spot at the district level in November 2019. PMEA music competitions rank students by chairs which place them either in or out of the next round; first chair acting as the best placement available. Each instrument has a set number of parts and chairs to fill. Typically, the more popular an instrument is to audition with, such as a flute, trumpet, clarinet, saxophone or percussion instrument, the more challenging it is to claim a chair.
“On [Feb. 12], we [individually] auditioned for regionals, and the next day was when the district festival started,” Schneider said.
Additionally, the group concert portion of the festival is part of the students’ regional audition as well.
“I competed with other saxophone players,” Schneider said. “Alto sax has first and second part with five saxes on each part. I got second chair out of five on the alto second part.”
Schneider’s success story was not the only one coming from Tussey’s regional auditioners. Moving on up to the next stage were also junior Kieran Gresko, a percussionist, and sophomores Ryley Runk, on clarinet, and Amelia Dibert with bass clarinet.
Gresko received third chair in his division, Runk was given third chair as well, and Dibert placed first chair. Sophomore Tiah Masood also participated in the event on french horn.
For competing at the district level in PMEA, students were awarded pins to recognize their achievements. Pins are based on the colors of the host school that year. Given that this year’s competition was held at Everett Area High School, the pins were red and white. Participating students are encouraged to represent their school by wearing their marching band uniforms. Since the Tussey Mountain Titan Band recently received brand new marching uniforms, they were able to show off their new attire at the event as well.
“I’ve always loved music, and after not making it last year, I was even more determined to go much further this year and hopefully make states,” Schneider said. “I also love getting to represent my school in such a difficult and amazing festival.”
“The director was great,too. He had an amazing selection of music, and everyone enjoyed it,” Gresko added.
“If anyone is considering joining band, I suggest that you go try it,” Runk said. “It honestly has made me so happy. Plus, you meet so many new people, have a lot of fun experiences, and make so many amazing memories.”
“It is extremely hard to make district and regional Band. Our students did very well this year with learning their music,” Jenkins said.
Students will go on to compete for a chance to play at PMEA State Band in April during Regional Band March 26-28.