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ST. MARYS — Local musicians recently received top honors during a competition held earlier this month and will soon be advancing to the state level.
The Memorial High School Symphonic Band, Symphonic Choir and Concert Choir received superior ratings at the Ohio Music Education Large Group Adjudicated Event held March 16 and 17 in Celina.
The competition, Band Director Dane Newlove said, is done annually but this was a first for the groups.
“This is the first time in my memory that we’ve had three groups going to state, which I think speaks highly of our students and the support we receive from our department,” he said.
At the event in Celina, three judges listened to the performance of the group on their prepared selections and made comments on the performance on a recording and on a written sheet. Each gave a rating from a high of “I,” or superior, to a low of “V,” or poor, on the overall performance.
“The groups were not only judged on who well they performed, but also on sight-reading,” Choir Director Christy Taylor said. “That is where they are given a piece for the first time and they have to read it and perform it. It definitely presents a challenge.”
The sight-reading performance was critiqued by a fourth judge. A total score of “6” or less from the four judges (i.e.: a 1-1-2-2) earns a superior, or “I,” rating and the opportunity to continue on to the state competition.
“I’m hoping we get to perform Friday, May 4,” Newlove said, noting there is also a scheduled local performance the same weekend as the state competition. “The band will compete at Findlay High School and the choirs will be at Van Buren High School.”
To prepare for the competitions, the students receive a list of pieces to choose from to perform.
“The students for both band and choir have a required piece — we had to choose from a list — and we pick two,” Taylor said, noting she tries to match the songs with the students’ ability.
“We spend class time doing sight-reading exercises to build up their sight-reading skills.”
Taylor said she also took her students out of the choir room for some practice.
“Kelly Fulmer was kind enough to allow us to use the middle school gym to rehearse,” she said. “We knew we were performing in the gym at Celina, so that way they were able to get use to the sound.”
The students also had practice time out of the classroom — something Taylor and Newlove said they are hoping to do again to get ready for the state competition.
“All three had extra rehearsals,” Newlove said. “We brought the band or choir in to listen to each other. We broke the kids down into sections and they were able to listen to each other.”
He added he also brought in a few members of the community to give feedback, including Tremon B. Kizer, the director of the University of Dayton Marching Band and Concert Band.
“I think it’s beneficial for the kids to hear other views,” Newlove said, adding it also comes in handy because of the judges’ possible comments. “We definitely got a lot of feedback with the other people listening.”
Kizer later thanked the students for letting him listen to their rehearsal and congratulated them on their superior ratings in a letter.
“When I spent time with you, I knew your ensemble was on the verge of something great,” Kizer wrote. “Your professionalism, attention to details and work ethic was remarkable and inspirational. As an ensemble, you played with passion and enthusiasm, and it is wonderful your adjudicators share the same sentiment. I am convinced that St. Marys Bands is a great role model for the school and community.”
Taylor noted they are working on setting another extra rehearsal date to ready for state, but Newlove added it may be hard because of the spring sports season.
That togetherness, Newlove noted, will continue on to the state level.
“I hope our performance times at state will allow us to go all together and support the other groups,” he said, noting they may have a group dinner for camaraderie. “It will make it fun for the kids.”
Overall, Newlove said he was proud of his students.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” he said. “They worked very hard for this.”
Taylor echoed his sentiments.
“We have an outstanding senior class, as well, and there are a lot of leaders and great musicians,” she said. “I’m excited we get to take them to state this year.”v