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February 19, 2010
Vol. 51 No. 15

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Festival weekend arrives

Courtesy of Photo provided by Valerie Martin
Music of the masses-- An ensemble from a past Honors Band Festival performs in Stretansky Concert Hall. This year, the 18th annual festival will take place from Friday, Feb. 19 to Sunday, Feb. 21.
Susquehanna will host 156 high school students to rehearse and perform at the 18th annual Honors Band Festival this weekend, from Friday, Feb. 19 to Sunday, Feb. 21.

According to an event description on the music department page on the university Web site, the festival is hosted by Assistant Professor and Music and Director of Bands Eric Hinton and the Susquehanna University Bands.

According to Hinton, the honors band students will come from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Maryland. He said that the students will audition on Friday and will be divided into two ensembles.

Hinton said the Susquehanna Jazz Band will also perform on Friday night.

On Saturday, the honors band students will attend master classes to learn the two pieces that they will perform at the festival finale on Sunday.

Hinton said he has a band staff of five music education majors who assists with paperwork and other similar tasks. This staff includes senior trumpet player Kevin Sodl, junior flute player Allison Edwards, sophomore trumpet player Jeff Kirkpatrick, sophomore bassoon player Ashley Bianchi and sophomore bassoon player Tyler Austin.

The festival began 18 years ago, according to Valerie Martin, associate professor of music and dean of the School of Arts, Humanities and Communications. She said she took over coordination efforts two years later.

Martin said: "What I did was create the current format of the festival. In the first two years, my understanding is that 40 high school students were invited to campus to perform alongside the University's Symphonic Band members. In my first year (1994-95), I changed the structure. Rather than having one combined high school and university group, we had one large high school ensemble. This high school honors group performed a concert in addition to the University Symphonic Band."

She continued: "By the next year, we had so many high school students apply -- upward of 400 -- that we created two high school ensembles: a wind ensemble and a symphonic band. This allowed us to invite 140 to 150 high school students."

Hinton said the new arrangement of the festival gave students "the opportunity to learn from another conductor, get to know the university, and become part of the Susquehanna family. Many students end up attending the university."

Hinton said that while he conducts the 60-member honors wind ensemble, this year's guest conductor, John A. Thomson, will conduct the 96-member honors band

According to the event synopsis, Thomson was director of bands at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., from 1982-2007. His bands have toured Switzerland, Germany and Holland. They have performed at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, the Atlanta International Band and Orchestra Conference and for the Music Educators National Conference Biennial In-Service Conference.

According to Thomson's Web site,, he has earned numerous National Band Associations Citations of Excellence, an American?School Band?Directors Association Stanbury Award, the Mr. Holland's Opus Award, the Chicagoland Outstanding Music Educator Award and the Phi Beta Mu Outstanding Bandmaster Award.

He was also inducted into the Phi Beta Mu Illinois Band Directors Hall of Fame at Northwestern University.


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