Kiski Area Intermediate School band chosen to play at state conference
The Kiski Area Intermediate School eighth-grade band is in Harrisburg today for what band director Robert Traugh likened to “the state championship for music.”
The 76-member ensemble is one of a handful of bands selected from more than 100 across the state to perform for hundreds of music teachers at the 2015 Annual Pennsylvania Music Educators Conference.
It is the only middle school band to have been selected to perform.
“This is a tremendous honor for the kids,” Traugh said. “They've been working very hard, and it's well-deserved. They were ecstatic when they found out.”
The band auditioned for the right to perform last April, when the students were in seventh grade. The Kiski Area band's performance was then reviewed blindly, along with hundreds of others and dozens from the same age level, by the Pennsylvania Music Educators, who gave the band a superior rating.
That allowed the band to apply for the PME performance, which they found out they'd been selected for in August.
Sam Shannon, a 14-year-old trumpet player from Parks Township, said the group is honored to have been selected to perform for the state's leaders in music education.
“It really is a big accomplishment for the band,” said Shannon, who will be featured on two solos. “It's definitely our biggest accomplishment as a group. I think we've grown a lot in the two years we've come together.”
The Kiski Area Intermediate School, which houses seventh- and eighth-grade students, combines band members from four elementary schools together for the first time.
The coalescence forces the students out of their comfort zones, Traugh said, and to adapt to playing in larger ensembles with less-familiar musicians.
It's a steep learning curve, but one that this group mastered beautifully, said Traugh, who came to the Kiski Area Intermediate School at the same time the students in the eighth-grade band did.
“I'm incredibly proud of what these kids have accomplished during our time together,” said Traugh, who formerly served as band director at Norwin High School. “They've received a tremendous amount of support from their parents and the district, and it shows in their performances.”
Traugh's affinity for the band is reciprocated among its ranks. Meredith Pepka, a 14-year-old alto saxophone player from Washington Township, said the band would never have been bestowed with such an honor had they not been afforded the opportunity the play under Traugh's tutelage.
“He's done such an amazing job for us,” said Pepka, who also is featured on a solo. “He really puts his time and effort into it. He makes it fun to be involved. I think that attracts more people, too, and that only makes it stronger.”
The set list for the band, which is composed entirely of wind and percussion instruments, includes songs like “Synergies” by Robert Sheldon, “With Each Sunset (Comes the Promise of a New Day),” by Richard Saucedo and “Encanto,” by Robert W. Smith.
On Wednesday, the band performed in an open rehearsal for friends and family in the Kiski Area High School auditorium.
Their performance at the conference in Harrisburg will be open to the public. Admission is $10.
The performance marks the first time a Kiski Area band was selected for the conference since the early 2000s, when the seventh-grade band played the annual music conference.
“I think the students are still trying to figure out what it means and how great of an honor it is,” Traugh said. “The conference emphasizes two sides of music education — the classroom and the performance aspect. These kids have done a tremendous job with both, and they're ready to show that in Harrisburg.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.