COVINGTON -- In front of a packed park on the Covington Square on Thursday afternoon, the first All-County Honor Band performed as part of the Newton County Arts Association's May Lunchtime Concert Series.
"I think it's important that while we each have our own identities and each band is special in its own right, the students and the community need to know that we can work together," said Alan Fowler, director of Eastside High School's band. "Music is music, and we are each other's biggest fans."
The honor band is made up of about 20 students from each Newton County High School -- Alcovy, Eastside and Newton -- a first for the county.
"The plan is for each spring from now through 2012, the honor band will be hosted at each of the three high schools," Fowler said. "Not since the days of (former Newton County High School Band Director) Basil Rigney and one high school have all the best high school musicians in the county performed as part of the same band."
The honor band students got together for their first practice earlier this week and performed for the first time Thursday afternoon, after the Eastside Symphonic Band performed as part of the lunchtime series.
On Thursday, the honor band played "The Star Spangled Banner," "Fanfare for the Third Planet," "Covington Square" and "The Highlights from 'The Music Man'" and were led by each of the high school band directors -- Fowler at Eastside, Jason Smith at Newton and Johnny Hallman at Alcovy, as well as T.K. Adams, director of the Newton County Community Band.
"I think it's a really good idea because we're very distant from each other," said honor band member Briana McWilliams, an 11th-grade flute player at Newton High. "It's a good opportunity to come together and see what others are like in the community."
The students in the band were chosen based on skill level and interests.
"We really worked to make sure the group would be a nice-sounding ensemble," Fowler said. "(The band includes) concert instruments from flutes to tubas and everything in between, plus a full range of concert percussion instruments."
Students said they hoped to have more practices and performances as an honor band in the future.
"I think it's a great experience to mix people from around the county that we normally wouldn't see," said Loronta Madison, an 11th-grade tuba player at Newton High School.
"You can see friends, competition and how you rank among the others, (and) you can see how each other's band directors are at the other schools."
At noon each Thursday in May, the public is invited to hear local musicians perform on the Square. Upcoming performers include Latino artist Jorge Alvarez on May 13; the Blues from the Bryant Brothers Band on May 20; and the jazz sounds of the John Scott Quartet on May 27. In the event of rain, the concerts will be held in the Board Room at the Historic Courthouse.