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East Hall students to perform at major UGA music fest
School 1 of 5 chosen from the Southeast
French horn players Kacie Armour, front, 17, and Janine Devera, 15, rehearse Monday at East Hall High School. The East Hall Wind Symphony was selected to perform at the 2011 University of Georgia January Music Festival this Saturday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

2011 University of Georgia January Music Festival

What: East Hall High School Wind Symphony performance
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: The UGA Performing Arts Center, Athens

East Hall High School band teacher Craig Cantrell said it's not uncommon for band directors to create a "bucket list."

"It's a list of all the things they want to do before they retire," he said.

Cantrell said he will cross off a major item this weekend, as his wind symphony students perform at the University of Georgia January Music Festival in Athens.

Cantrell said he's been aiming for the honor since arriving at East Hall in 2003.

"These concerts are performed by some of the grandest bands in the world and they only pick five. This year, we were one of the five," Cantrell said.

The annual music festival, known as "JanFest" invites 1,200 high school band students and directors to visit the campus for four days of clinics, rehearsals and performances.

The East Hall High School Wind Symphony was chosen as one of the entertainers this Saturday.

"The students are excited and a little nervous," Cantrell said. "We're not performing for our parents, we're performing for the region's brightest music students, composers and conductors - that can be scary."

East Hall was selected last July, after submitting a video audition and applications.

Cantrell said it was last year's students who helped East Hall secure a place in the 2011 music festival.

The submitted video footage was of a performance evaluation of East Hall last March at an event by the Georgia Music Educators Association.

"That was a remarkable year for wind symphony. On the judges sheets we had A's in every category; it was a perfect score," Cantrell said.

Being named to the lineup for JanFest has put a healthy pressure on this year's wind symphony students, Cantrell said. East Hall was one of only five bands to be selected in the Southeast.

"They feel they have to step up and play at this level," he said. "What thrills me about these kids is they have an internal drive to be successful."

Cantrell said last week's snow days cut into rehearsal time, but the students worked to make up for lost time Monday. The school building was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Da,y but students turned out for about a five-hour practice in the band room.

"We had a rehearsal marathon to get back to where we were before the snow," Cantrell said.

For the concert, Cantrell said, students are prepping to play "Near Woodstock Town" by Aldridge Grainger and "Elaguila De Oro," a Spanish march that translates into "The Golden Eagle." The song will be conducted by East Hall Middle School band director Geoffrey Lonberger.

Mercer Crook, a well-known former band director at East Hall, will also step in as one of the guest conductors.

"He'll conduct an old march called ‘March Differente,'" Cantrell said. "It's one of Mr. Crook's signature pieces and he has every part memorized."

The finale will be the song "Hounds of Spring" by Alfred Reed. It's a challenging song with a mix of fast-paced runs and slow, romantic parts, Cantrell said.

Cantrell said being chosen for the music festival is an honor usually reserved for schools with a much higher student population, and those with more than one band director and several private music instructors on staff.

"We don't have all that. It's just me and the kids working hard," Cantrell said. "It's a huge honor for our school and community, and we may be the smallest school ever invited."

Student Stephen Pope, a senior, said he feels very privileged to perform this weekend.

"It's a big honor to play in that concert and on that stage," Pope said. "It's one of those things you remember for the rest of your life."

Cantrell said the next item on his bucket list is to have the students perform nationally or even overseas. He hopes the music festival performance will be a move toward that opportunity.

"They work so hard and so well together, and hopefully this will be a stepping stone to something even greater," Cantrell said.


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