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Musicians find common ground at countywide band festival

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Photo by Pat Sunderland Delta County musicians experienced the "big band" sound when they gathered for a countywide band festival Feb. 3.

On Feb. 3, instrumentalists from Delta, Cedaredge, Paonia and Hotchkiss gathered for a countywide band festival.

In the weeks leading up to the event, students familiarized themselves with the music at practice sessions with their instructors, Andrew Bruington, Jeannette Carey, Melissa Gross, Marcos LeBlanc and Kay Witt. The instructors spent several more hours developing a plan for blending all the woodwinds, horns and percussion into a large high school band and an even larger middle school band.

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, the students all gathered at the Delta Center for Performing Arts where they worked with two clinicians, Ryan Crabtree and Dr. Alan Mills.

Crabtree is in his ninth year at Fruita Monument High School, where he directs the marching band, two concert ensembles, two jazz bands and a percussion ensemble. He also teaches an AP music theory class. A native of Grand Junction, Crabtree earned a bachelor's degree in music education from Colorado Mesa University and a master's degree in conducting from the American Band College of Sam Houston University.

The high school band worked with Dr. Alan Mills, director of bands and associate professor of music at Colorado State University - Pueblo. He conducts the wind ensemble and university band, directs the ThunderWolves marching band, oversees development of the concert and athletic band programs, supervises student teachers and teaches music education courses.

The festival ended with an evening performance for family and friends. Newly-elected school board member and DHS band booster Jill Jurca was the master of ceremonies.

Instructor Melissa Gross said the Cedaredge concert band has just 32 members, so the festival provided an exciting opportunity for them to hear all the parts. "They're not used to full instrumention, so it's exciting for them to be in a big band ... plus they like that it's loud."

Working with a clinician also provides the students with a broader perspective. "They enjoy having someone else on the podium," Gross said.

Bringing all the musicians together helps students understand they're "not on an island," said DHS instructor Marcos LeBlanc. "There are other musicians in Delta County who enjoy band as much as they do. The camaraderie is great."

Vocalists from Delta County will have a similar opportunity when a countywide choir festival is rescheduled. The event was originally planned for Feb. 1, but was postponed due to inclement weather.

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