The more than 60 students who comprise the school’s wind symphony are practicing this week and next for two prestigious upcoming performances.
The symphony will perform Jan. 30 at the Georgia Music Educators Association’s annual conference in Savannah and Feb. 7 at the Alabama Band Symposium at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Craig Cantrell, director of bands at East Hall, said it is an honor for the symphony to be selected as a featured performing group at both events, particularly in the same year.
“This is a tremendous honor for our program, as only two high schools were selected statewide for the Georgia Music Educators Association Conference and only three schools were selected from the Southeast to perform at the Alabama Band Symposium,” Cantrell said. “It is extremely rare to be selected for two major events in the same year.”
Erin Martin, junior flutist, said the symphony will play for 45 minutes in Savannah, a performance that includes a few truly difficult pieces.
Symphony members have worked since August to prepare several pieces of band literature, including an original piece titled “Imperfect Cadence for a Life Well-Led,” which was commissioned and dedicated in memory of the late Ron Evans, a longtime Hall County music educator.
The Georgia Music Educators Association conference is an opportunity for professional development for most of the state’s music educators. Meanwhile, the Alabama Band Symposium attracts nearly 1,400 high school band members annually, according to Cantrell. Only a select number of bands across the Southeast outside Alabama are invited to join annually.
Cantrell said both honors are usually given to larger schools with greater resources. For East Hall to receive the honor is quite an accomplishment.
Lauren Raper, senior oboist, said she has performed in Washington with the symphony and marched at Disney World, but they’ve never had the opportunity to showcase their abilities at an event like the conference in Savannah.
“We try not to take all that credit on our own,” Raper said. “It’s our past members who have graduated and gone on who helped us get to this point and get this honor.”
Laura Graves, senior tenor saxophonist, said the conference is a huge opportunity for the symphony, because it gets to perform for the state’s experts in music education.
Eduardo Carrasco, junior clarinet player, and Trent Collins, senior bass trombone player, both said they are nervous for the performances but grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s one of our biggest performances that we’ve had in our band’s history,” Graves said. “We’ve been working really hard. It’s a big performance so I think we’re all nervous, but excited for it at the same time.”
Grayze Anne Sepe, senior trumpeter, agreed.
“We’re focusing a little bit more on it because at GMEA, it’s music educators,” Sepe said. “It’s all the professors and teachers in the state of Georgia who will come see us perform.”
Sepe said they are also looking forward to the clinic in Tuscaloosa, which will give them a chance to see and learn from other high school performers from the entire Southeast.
Cantrell said the opportunity to perform in Savannah was one of his many professional goals since he started at the school in 2003. He said some of the works the symphony will perform are truly challenging, even for a college-level symphony.
“I believe our determined students will make us all very proud when they perform on these grand stages,” he said.