High school musicians merge talents at SIUE, 29th Bi-State Honor Band Festival

Three bands consisting of top high school musicians from Illinois and Missouri took to Dunham Hall stage Saturday. Photo courtesy of Theresa San Luis.

Dozens of brass instruments, part of a band, shone under the lights onstage at Dunham Hall. So too did many more high school students in performing college level music before their teachers, directors and families.

At SIUE, roughly 250 students from 40 different high schools attended the university’s 29th Bi-State Honor Band Festival held this past weekend. Students auditioned on Friday for placement in one of three bands. They rehearsed and then they performed Saturday evening.

Bell said the two-day event has always been very exciting and phenomenal on campus with so many great musicians.

“So there’s a terrific pool of talent for us to work with,” Bell said. “It’s very exciting. It’s intense. Students are working at a very high level.”

He said that almost every student that participates are All-District-playing level, and that many of them have been honored with All-State designation. Students are nominated by their band directors from Illinois and Missouri and selected by Bell to participate.

According to Bell, the festival provides visibility for the campus but also offers a service for area directors and outreach for students.

Visiting students worked with faculty as well guest artists on campus. The weekend included Todd Black, Chris Becker and Gary Smith who guest conducted each of the bands.

Smith who directed the Honor Band was associate director of bands at the University of Illinois, and was one of Bell’s professors when he was working on his master’s degree in 1976.

During Saturday’s performance, Smith told the audience he enjoyed the fruits of the students’ labor: seven hours of rehearsal.

Smith added that the level of the band’s abilities was the equivalent of an all-state basketball team.

According to trumpet player Joe Schaefer, a senior at St. Francis Borgia Regional High School in Washington, Mo, he enjoyed working under Smith.

Schaefer added that he enjoyed the event and has looked into SIUE for higher education.

“Everyone has been super-friendly and helpful,” Schaefer said.

According to Schaefer, the festival was awesome and he loved it.

Schaefer’s band director, Robert Jasper, an SIUE alumni said he enjoyed sharing with faculty the fruits of their labor.

“Of the 40 high schools that send students, you’re looking at the best of the best,” Jasper said. “They get to play with those kids at their same caliber, and that only makes them better.”

Shannon Moore, band director at Cuba High School in Cuba, Mo, said she thinks the event was amazing and thought her students had a good time.

“I think it was a fantastic opportunity for students…” Moore said, “coming from a small school to play with larger ensembles—great ensembles–that they might not have a chance to perform with at home.”

Bell recognized his graduate assistants, Nick Baker and Emilie Curry for their coordinating help, his student volunteers from the music department, and thanked parents and teachers for making the event possible.

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