Mike Holmes2

AMEA Conference 2017 was extraordinary.  I was so impressed with the performances delivered by all of our outstanding ABA representative ensembles.  Mike Guzman led the Velvet Blue Jazz Orchestra in a very energetic and “tight” performance to kick off the Alabama Bandmasters Association’s first scheduled performance, the Hewitt-Trussville Middle School Honors Band (Brandon Peters-conductor) and Oak Mountain Middle School Advanced Band (Heather Holmes-conductor). Both were outstanding.  We definitely have some fine middle school band programs and directors in our organization. Oak Mountain High School Wind Ensemble (Kevin Ownby-conductor) and Bob Jones High School Wind Ensemble (Leigh Thomas-conductor) were in end- of-the-year form and it was only January.  The UAH Wind Ensemble under the baton of Dr. C. David Ragsdale offered a stellar performance with a little something for everyone in their program.  “That’s a middle school group?”  I heard that asked several times by those that attended the performance of the Pizitz Middle School Percussion and Jazz Ensembles (Kim Bain-Leah Seng-conductors).  These indeed were two very mature-sounding groups. The Homewood Middle School Percussion Ensemble (Chris Cooper, Terrence Cobb, and Lauren Nowak-conductors) presented a high energy, very-fun-for-the-audience performance. The Homewood Middle School Synergy Drum Circle, which is a special needs group of students, performed with the percussion ensemble and then returned to the stage with a bring the house down performance accompanied by keynote speaker Scott Lang.  And that is exactly what happened!  These students brought a level of energy, excitement, and love to the state’s music educators in the audience, as I have never before seen.  Thank you, Synergy for sharing your love and joy with us!

But wait, there’s more!  All-State auditions and Music Performance Assessment (MPA) will more than likely be over by the time you read this article. My hope is that these activities are a positive experience for you and your students and that they allow for musical growth for directors and students alike.  With a dedicated and diligent approach to preparation, All-State auditions and MPA should provide opportunities for your students to continue to progress and become stronger fundamental musicians.  They should provide you with the opportunity to better know your students as you work with them individually, in sectionals, and as a full ensemble in preparation for these events.  I have found over time that there is nothing that helps directors be prepared to stand on the podium more than knowing the capabilities of the students sitting in the chairs in front of them.

ALL-STATE BAND FESTIVAL IS ON THE MOVE.  As you will read in this issue we have four very successful and in-demand clinicians coming to Alabama to work with our outstanding all-state band students. Smiths Station High School director Gene Butler, with AMEA Executive Director Garry Taylor playing the role of negotiator, has been working, planning, and putting together our move to Montgomery – all while changing jobs.  Gene has done a great job and I am confident that we will have a positive and successful all-state band experience in Montgomery.  We will communicate details of the event’s venues, schedules, etc. by way of abafest emails and postings on the myamea.org website (Choose Band Division).  Check often for updates.

By the time we get to Montgomery, Spring will be in the air, birds will be singing, and the sun will be shining, so . . . DON’T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!!