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Big band dreams
East Hall symphony tunes up for concert at Troy State clinic
East Hall band director Craig Cantrell directs the band during rehearsal Friday morning. The band has been invited to perform at the 2012 Southeastern United States Band Clinic in Alabama, they are also the smallest school ever invited to the clinic.

Members of the East Hall High School Wind Symphony are proving that quality reigns supreme over quantity.

Coming from one of Hall County's smaller high schools doesn't stop band members from putting on a good show. The wind symphony will be heading to Alabama this weekend to perform a 55-minute concert as a featured ensemble in the 2012 Southeastern United States Band Clinic.

The clinic at Troy State University draws schools from all over the Southeast, but the East Hall symphony is one of only four groups chosen to perform solo concerts.

"This is the biggest performance we've ever done," said Annah Coker, senior clarinet player and band captain.

"It's a really big opportunity because we're the only school from Georgia. And none of us take private lessons, we all learn from (band director Craig Cantrell). Most of our instruments are rented and we don't have the money to do some of the things that other schools can, but we're still one of the best because we work hard."

The students have been preparing since the end of the marching band season.

"It's taken a lot to prepare," said Austin Greenway, a senior and band captain.

"We rehearse everyday during class and Mondays and Thursdays after school."

With just 65 members, the East Hall symphony is one of the smallest groups selected to perform at the clinic, band officials say.

"We'll hear the Troy State band perform the first day, then we get to show them what we have on Saturday," said Avien Gober, a senior and the band's first lieutenant.

"I'm not nervous now, but wait until we get on stage. We'll all be nervous."

Although they're used to performing in front of crowds, the students aren't accustomed to playing such a long set.

"I'm having to build up their muscle," Cantrell said. "You have to just play and play and play, but they've been so good about it. These are the kids who get here before school and stay after school because they really want to sound good."

The symphony members will be playing pieces such as "Irish Tune from County Derry," "Shepherds Hey" and "Scootin' on Hard Rock."

They will also perform "Valhalla," an ode to the school's mascot written by Nicholas Ayala, a Flowery Branch High School graduate, current Gainesville State College student and composer-in-residence for East Hall.

Although it is their first featured performance at the clinic, this isn't the first time that the school's band has been used to showcase the top talent in the state.

"Last year we applied and were granted permission to be a featured ensemble at the University of Georgia. They do an annual music festival that features high school musicians throughout the state," Cantrell said.

"They invite four or five bands to perform as featured guests and they use them as models of being the very best. After we did that performance, it ignited some enthusiasm of what we could do."

Applying for feature status for the Troy clinic was the next logical - yet slightly intimidating - step.

"This is a regional thing, so there are a lot of schools involved, but this was one of the things on my bucket list for the band," Cantrell said.

"I wanted to show them that they can achieve more than just playing for mom and dad. Playing for family is nice, but when they put their mind to it, they can achieve great things.

"I wanted them to see that."

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