Lucas Corbin reporter
On Saturday, Pittsburg’s Bicknell Center welcomed over two hundred young musicians in an all-day workshop for the Kansas Music Educator Association’s (KMEA) Southeast District Honor Ensemble Concert.
KMEA has seven districts across the state; the southeastern district includes Pittsburg and twenty-eight other high schools. The concert consisted of three musical groups: a band, an orchestra, and a choir; the Honor Jazz Band, which is also sponsored by the KMEA, had their performance in November alongside the Pittsburg State University Jazz Band.
Auditions for the selective groups began earlier this semester; because of the limited number of seats and competitive nature of the ensemble, some members, like Adriel De La Cruz, an Independence High junior, began preparation for their audition early last school year to ensure their seats.
“I always try to prepare, a lot, in advance, and spent most of the summer practicing… I get worried but try to turn my anxiety into excitement,” De La Cruz said.
The students arrived early that morning, clocking in at 8:15. Ft. Scott High senior Ella McElroy exited the school bus excited, but recalled past stress from her audition months prior, as well as the hours of practice she had spent in preparation for the concert that evening.
“I get to play music, and I get to play [it] at a level that’s actually challenging to me,” McElroy said.
Throughout the day, the ensemble members were directed by conductors Thomas Dickey of Oklahoma State University, Julie Yu from Kansas State University, and Jamie Minnerman of Barton Community College, whom all have a passion for music education.
“My role as an educator is one of [a] mentor, coach, and model,” Minnerman said.
Megan Gabehart, president of KMEA’s southeastern district, expressed that the educator’s goals were to “Make music in a way that, in some of our small schools, is often not possible.”
Kansas’ rural school districts’ music programs often lack the membership and resources to routinely put on grand programs, which Gabehart said adds to the value of KMEA’s annual concerts.
“These are big, full ensembles and some students may be coming from schools [that] may never have had this opportunity before. They might not be used to having full instrumentation in their band or orchestra or four parts in their choir,” Gabehart said.
For some of the musicians in attendance, Saturday was the first time they had performed under a director not affiliated with their high school organization.
Other volunteers that proved themselves instrumental to the success of the concert included university students like Dallas Hall, freshman in music education, who assisted the band.
“The experiences that students get at – not only district events – but rehearsals, in general, is so eye-opening to some of these students,” Hall said.