By JOE LUETKEHANS– It is said that “the true beauty of music is that it connects people, it carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.” Such a sentiment has never been truer than on January 11-14, where six IHS Band students traveled to Kittanning with band director Mr. Jason Olear for the annual PMEA District 3 Band Fest, in which students from towns surrounding the Indiana area compete for spots in a Regional Band and further competitions.
Olear was joined by Haley Orr, Matt Conjelko, Anthony Morse, John Makara, Alex Detweiler, and Drew Nelson. These six student musicians arrived the first day prepared to audition with pieces that they had been preparing for several weeks.
Prospective competitors arrived from areas surrounding Indiana County, including Armstrong/Apollo-Ridge, Forest, and Clarion.
Students attending the event are all competing for spots in the highly selective Regional Band, which includes student musicians from areas like Westmoreland all the way to parts of southern New York. Orr, Conjelko, and Makara were able to impress judges and qualify for the regional competition, which will take place from February 22-24 in West Shamokin.
The weekend was not all smooth sailing, however. According to Olear, there were some extenuating circumstances that caused difficulty during the competition. “Unfortunately, the competition was cut short because of the weather, but everyone still did very well…” This did not stop certain students in their efforts for a Regional Chair, and the judges were still able to make viable choices minus a day of preparation and practice.
Senior Matt Conjelko, who also participated in the competition last year, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “My favorite part was when they announced who made it to regionals, and all the competition that I went up against…I did qualify, second out of twenty.” Conjelko, who also participates in other PMEA festivals, hopes to show at Regionals that Indiana’s student musicians are real competitors, especially at such a high level.
One of the most important factors of District Band competitions is the level of companionship and comradery that student musicians find amongst their peers, whether they are classmates or not. Senior Alex Detweiler, who was a first-year competitor, stated “It was really enjoyable. There were a lot of friendly, talented faces and some challenging music as well. My favorite part was meeting other percussionists and music professionals because it’s like we’re all one big family.”
According to several students, these newfound interpersonal connections allow them to connect with the music and their fellow bandmates on a deeper level, which positively contributes to the overall cohesion of the group.
The High Arrow would like to wish good luck to all students who are moving on to the Regional level of competition, and the IHS student body as a whole should have pride for their peers who are moving ahead in the competition. Good Luck!
[Photo courtesy of Jason Olear]
Photo Caption: District band competitors unite to show off their playing ability. From left to right, starting in back: Matt Conjelko, John Makara, Drew Nelson, Hailey Orr, Alex Detweiler.