By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The North Laurel Middle School seventh and eighth grade concert band performed and was honored during the 2014 Kentucky Music Educator’s Association (KMEA) conference on February 8 in Louisville.
The annual conference recognizes the top performing bands from across Kentucky.
To even be considered for selection, bands have to submit recorded performances to KMEA. The recordings are then judged solely on performance quality, and a selection is made. High school and middle school bands across the state are eligible to submit a recorded audition.
This is the first time in 21 years that a band from southeastern Kentucky was chosen to participate. For the 2014 conference, only three middle schools were selected, with North Laurel being the last to perform at the four-day conference.
The band was named as a 2014 Distinguished Conference Participant and was presented with a framed certificate and their director, Pricilla Wilkerson was presented with a Citation of Excellence from the National Band Association for outstanding contribution to bands and band music.
“Not everyone gets a great honor like this. It makes you proud that you’re part of the NLMS Band,” said Desiray Baker, an eighth grade clarinet player at NLMS.
The band program consists of approximately 150 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students performing in various ensembles, including concert band, jazz band, parade band, pep band and percussion ensemble. The concert bands consistently earn distinguished ratings at the KMEA Large Ensemble Festival each year.
Students also participate in EKU Honor Band and the Southeastern Kentucky Music Association All Festival Band. Other distinctions include performance at the National Middle School Conference in Louisville in 2011 and participation in the University of Kentucky Windfest in April 2013.
“The most amazing thing to me was the drive and determination of the students to give the best performance possible,” Wilkerson said. “They never quit working toward their goal. The snow days reduced our practice time by nearly half, but the kids were able to accomplish an incredible amount of work in a very short period of time. I have been blown away by their effort, their talent and their character. I am so proud of them.”
Composer, Randall Standridge, was in attendance at the concert and was very complimentary of the band’s performance of his composition, New Era Fanfare. He told the students, “Thank you for bringing the music to life. I enjoyed it very much. You kids rock!"
Guest conductor on the program was Jack Walker, former band director/mentor of Wilkerson and current director of the London Community Orchestra. Walker attended many rehearsals along with the students to help in preparing them for the performance.
The program included an arrangement of tunes made famous by jazz great, Louis Armstrong. The selection was arranged by David Hummel, professional trumpet player from Lexington, Ky., who was also featured as a soloist on the number.
“My most memorable experience about the performance would have to be the standing ovation we got. It just made me feel really good,” said Haley Mills, an eighth grade clarinet player.