Banding together: Local bands to perform in festival

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

COVINGTON -- It's a busy week for some of the large bands in Newton County high schools.

For the past several months, the concert and symphonic bands at Alcovy, Eastside and Newton high schools have been preparing for the Georgia Music Educators Association's Large Group Performance Evaluation festival.

"Bands, orchestras and choruses across the country perform in events like this each year," said Alan Fowler, director of the bands at Eastside High School. "The LGPE performance is like our End-of-Course test or CRCT. ... LGPE is a big part of the band's year, and the feedback the adjudicators give the directors and the students is useful in making progress from year to year."

From Thursday to Saturday, the bands will perform three songs each and then conduct a sight reading activity during the event, which will take place at Stephenson High School, located at 701 Stephenson Road in Stone Mountain.

"Bands are required to choose two pieces from the Georgia Music Educators Association's approved music list, as well as a warm-up selection, which is most often a march," Fowler said.

Alcovy High School's symphonic band will perform "New Mexico March," "Journey Into Diablo Canyon" and "Hungarian Dance No. 5" at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

At 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Eastside's symphonic winds group will perform the "Eagle Squadron March," "They Led My Lord Away" and "An Irish Rhapsody;" and at 9:20 a.m. Saturday, Eastside's concert band will perform "Normandy Beach," "The Southern Dawn" and "Fire Dance."

At 2 p.m. Friday, Newton High School's concert band will perform "Band Avenue March," "A Mighty Fortress" and "Eagle Ridge;" and at 6:50 p.m. Friday, its symphonic band will perform "The Liberty Bell," "Amazing Grace" and "A Festival Overture."

During the performances, highly qualified current and former band directors who serve as judges will mark comment sheets and rubrics to judge each band performance; they also will record live comments that will be provided to each band on a CD after the festival.

"We get evaluated and judges on different concepts of music -- tone, intonation, technique, balance, interpretation, musical effect and other factors," said Jason Smith, band director at Newton High School. "When we get back to school, we listen to it as a group and take it as constructive criticism and look at things we can improve."

The bands are rated, but the event is not a competition.

"We are basically there for our own selves," said Johnny Hallman, band director at Alcovy High School. "After, we'll know some things we need to work on."

Each band also will conduct a sight reading activity as a group during the festival.

"They have six minutes to study a piece that they've never played or seen before, and then they will perform it and be judged on how well they do," Smith said. "The judges usually give comments that help build our bands and grow as musicians."

While at the festival, the bands also hope to catch performances from other area bands -- those from Rockdale, Walton, DeKalb and Morgan county schools also will perform at the festival this week.

"The experience of performing at LGPE can be quite stressful, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to show off what is being taught and accomplished in the band room," Fowler said. "This is an invaluable part of the experience."

The band directors encourage parents and the general public to attend the festival to support the band students.

"Friendly faces always make the stress a lot easier when the students look out into the crowd and see someone they know," Hallman said.

In April, solo and small ensemble groups will perform for GMEA evaluations.

The Newton County middle school bands will perform as part of GMEA's Middle School LGPE festival on Thursday at McNair High School, which is located at 1804 Bouldercrest Road S.E., in Atlanta.