Talented IHS musicians have been hard at work since January attempting to climb up the ranks on the PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) music festival ladder. There are three levels of festivals for students to participate in. The first is the district level, then regions, then finally states.
Seven IHS students are progressing to this level: Nadia Goodyear (concert band), Joey Baunoch, Maura and Sam Knepper, Sean Kelly (all for chorus), and Emma Sheeran and Ronald Wang (orchestra).
Auditions are held at each level and require a lot of preparation on the student’s part. “The preparation process for these festivals is insane, like playing for hours,” says senior Emily Sands. She spent hours every day preparing for her audition at regions. The auditions are blind, but unlike recent years, they are in-person this year, which senior Maura Knepper tells me has helped motivate her to prepare. “In-person auditions really motivated me to make sure that I knew my music inside and out,” she explains.
Aside from the intensive audition process, the experience of attending a festival and immersing oneself in the music and people around them is a rewarding one. “I think what makes the PMEA experience so special is knowing that you got where you are because of how hard you practiced,” Sands expresses.
The relief that rushes through students when they finally arrive at a festival and are finally able to culminate their hard work into a fantastic performance is a great one.
The relief of the preparation process being close to over is not the only satisfying part of the experience–especially now that things are returning to normal following the pandemic. Restrictions like masks, bell covers, and social distancing are being lifted and music-making is returning to its original, in-person form. “The more we were able to move back to making music in person together, the more powerful the festival experience was able to be,” said Knepper.
She’s right; the festival experience is a powerful one framed by a strong community full of care and support. “Something that makes this experience so special is being able to meet a huge group of people that all have the same passion for music,” expresses senior Nadia Goodyear.
PMEA gives participating students a place to unapologetically show their passion for music, be themselves, and grow as both musicians and people. It is a unique, formative experience for all the students involved.
Emma is a senior and a first-year reporter for the High Arrow. She has been intensely involved with the IHS music department for all four years of high school, including attending state-level competitions and playing with the PSO. She is looking forward to working in a journalistic setting and putting the education she receives here towards a career in journalism.
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