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 Music Education Services
1041 Bonaventure Drive
Elk Grove Village, IL

Fax 847-805-1900 

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Music Education Services (MES) provides comprehensive band programs to elementary schools.  

Honors Band: A Personal Narrative by C.S.

One experience that enriched my musical career was Honors Band 2013. I have played clarinet in Music Education Services for four years; I am currently in my fifth year. Honors Band is a program within Musical Education Service where a limited number of students are selected for their ability in band. To be selected is to be an honor; the program’s purpose is to bring together gifted students to perform advanced music with a full band. The selected students are invited to participate in the Honors Band Festival Day. Music will be given to those chosen to practice individually and in small groups. On the Festival Day, everyone gathers together for a full day of music. At the end of the day, a concert is held for parents and guests. 

I was nominated for Honors Band sometime before Christmas, and I was very exited when I was selected in January. I had heard mention of Honors Band last year when a fellow advanced band student had been selected, but otherwise, I had not known of it. My excitement grew when I heard Mr. Robert Sheldon would be there. Mr. Sheldon is a composer, and I had played some of his music before. I was given music to practice, and I attended small practices with other Honors Band kids from nearby schools.

On the day of Honors Band, my mother and I woke up very early. The Honors Festival was at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, which was a two-hour drive south from my town. As my mother pulled into the parking lot full of students carrying instruments, my anticipation heightened. When one enters, the place was very open. At the top of the stairs was a medium-sized room which was used to store instrument cases and Honors Band members’ belongings. I set up my clarinet and headed for the clarinet room where all of the clarinets would spend their time together. The room was about classroom-sized with a dry-erase board, filled with students individually warming up; all those clarinets playing at once sounded pleasant to me.

Each group of instruments was headed by a band director employed in Musical Education Services, usually with their primary instruments. My band director headed the flutes. The clarinet teacher introduced herself and said that everyone was just warming up before the day’s events started. 

At eight-thirty went downstairs for the Welcome and Expectations Speech. The room was very large, with a nice big stage and chairs synonymous with those in movie theatres. Symphonic Band was already on stage; it appeared that they had been warming up. Concert Band sat down in some chairs and a man went onstage and introduced himself as Mr. Green. Throughout the day he told many corny jokes. The other director named Mr. Szymanski was also onstage.

The schedule was explained to us.  From eight-forty to eleven-thirty we practiced either in full band or in sectionals. From eleven-thirty to twelve-fifteen was lunch. Twelve-fifteen to two-thirty was more full band and sectional practice. At three, was final preparation for the concert.  Following the announcements, Symphonic Band began full band rehearsal and Concert Band began sectionals upstairs.

First, we organized our seating arrangements in the clarinet room so we were sitting with like instrument parts, firsts, seconds, and thirds. We went through all the songs given to us, The Star Spangled Banner, Fanfare and Flourishes “2”, Satie: Three Gymnopedies, Afterburn, and Pictures at an Exhibition. I had never heard so many clarinets play by themselves before. I felt happy as we analyzed all the music. Both Mr. Green and Mr. Szymanski popped in at intervals to guide us in finer details in the songs they would conduct. Fanfare and Flourishes “2” and Afterburn were two pieces that I found challenging at the practices I had attended with students from schools near my school. They had an energizing pace, and sounded excellent when all the parts were put together. Afterburn was difficult because the clarinets and others had a metronome-like part that mostly consisted of measure after measure of quarter notes. Other instruments carried on with the melody at the same time. After practicing the music Ms. Scholl showed us a recording of someone playing a clarinet to imitate laughing.

Then we headed down to the theatre room for our full band rehearsal. As we headed onto the stage, I noticed the large number of students in Concert Band; my combined schools concerts up north did not have this many students in Advanced Band.

I was filled with happiness as soon as I heard the first note. I had never experienced such a large band playing together, with myself right in the middle of it. It felt so good to be part of something bigger than myself. Every piece of music sounded much better than before. The acoustics in the theatre made everything sound grander. The conductors took turns, each going through all the music. They smoothed out the wrinkles in our playing.

I enjoyed myself so much practicing with the whole band that the time seemed to fly by. Soon it was lunch time and Concert Band went upstairs to put their music and instruments away. The lunch room was filled with round grey tables; an aisle separated this from long rectangular tables where pizza, chips, and water were sold and served.
After lunch Concert Band had another full band rehearsal in the theatre. Again I was filled with a sense of wonder and belonging of where I was.

When we had sectionals practice we didn’t do too much playing; Ms. Scholl explained that the quality of the sound of the clarinet lessened when one’s lips were tired. We used this time to rest our lips as Ms. Scholl went through a packet that was given to us upon arrival. This was filled with information specifically to my instrument. 

Pretty soon it was time to get ready for the concert. Everyone changed into their dress clothes and went into the lunch/percussion room where snack was held, but mostly people just talked. Then everyone went into the theatre room. It was time for the director performance, where all the directors played for the students. Among other songs, the performance included a John Williams medley because today was Star Wars Day. John Williams is a composer known for his movie music; amongst his works is the music from Star Wars.

We warmed up and it was explained to the audience what the students did while at Honors Band. Then everyone stood up for the anthem and we started to play. Everything we played sounded spectacular. In between songs, the conductor of the song talked about the background of the piece. Afterburn was so well played, and such an exciting piece, that when Mr. Szymanski went onstage to conduct Pictures, he said something along the lines of, “Boy, is that something to follow.” Pictures was also a fun piece to play. At one point in the song, it sounds like the woodwinds and the brass were waging war with one another.

Pictures was the last song for Concert Band. After bowing to the audience we left the stage and sat down to listen to Symphonic Band, who was conducted by Mr. Sheldon. While warming up, Mr. Sheldon had everyone play the same note. He then turned around, bowed, and announced that that piece was by the Chinese composer Tu Ning. Everyone laughed, and it was only later that I got the joke. I enjoyed Symphonic Band’s performance. One of their songs, Metrix, was composed by Mr. Sheldon.

After it was all over, both bands went upstairs to pack their instruments away and gather their belongings. The concert was video taped by a professional company, and my mother ordered a recording of the performance. I had my picture taken, and then my mother and I departed for home.

At Honors Band I played with a group of gifted musicians. I experienced the joy of working together musically with fellow contemporaries. For me, Honors Band opened a door to another world of music.

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