COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge High School’s wind ensemble, composed of 51 members, did not at first seem like an overwhelmingly large group. But when they took the stage and lifted their instruments, the sound they resonated was large indeed.
The ensemble, which will bring this sound to the Missouri Music Educators Association conference, gave an identical send-off concert at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at the high school.
This is the first time a musical group from Rock Bridge has been honored at the conference, which will host seven high school groups of various types. The wind ensemble will perform at the 2010 Missouri Music Educators Association conference at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Tan-Tar-A in Osage Beach.
“This opportunity gives the kids state recognition in addition to local,” Director Steve Mathews said. “They have really raised the bar throughout this process and have been very engaged and focused.”
Not unexpectedly, much time and preparation have gone into earning this recognition. Mathews said he sent an audition tape of a live recording in late spring of last year to the association. When notification of the honor came in the summer, the ensemble began practicing shortly after, beginning the first week of September and continuing every Tuesday night. And as time went on and marching season came to a close, rehearsals increased.
Kevin Weston, a senior trombone player in the ensemble, said he had never performed for anything like this conference before.
“Preparing has taken a lot of time, but this opportunity lets us do really challenging music that we wouldn’t get to do otherwise,” he said. “Overall, it’s very rewarding.”
Karen Krueger, parent of oboe player Molly Krueger, can attest to the time commitment as well. The players even practiced at 8 a.m. on some weekends, but it really paid off, she said. “Mr. Mathews has done an amazing job.”
Even recently when the weather decided to foil rehearsal plans and forced the ensemble members to change their Saturday schedule in order to get in a practice session, every student came through, according to Mathews.
Robert Thalhuber, assistant director of the ensemble, added that this opportunity gives the students a chance to polish their music through rehearsals like these, because they will be performing for an audience of nearly 1,000 people.
Debbie Taylor, president of the Bruin Band Boosters, said the students have been wonderful and the entire experience has been very positive.
As one of seven musical groups from Missouri high schools performing at the conference, the ensemble leaves no room for doubt that their hard work has been rewarding. “This has taken them to the edge, but they have been very diligent,” Mathews said.