Music Festival Finds Notes of Harmony

The out-of-tune cacophony of instruments warming up signals the start of a music festival rehearsal session. With a carefully trained ear, conductor Craig Mohr helps the flutes and saxophones, in particular, to reach proper tuning.

All the young musicians quiet in anticipation for the notes of the first rehearsal piece. Imagine — nearly 150 instrument musicians in grades five through 12 preparing in two days’ time for a weekend performance at Auburn Adventist Academy. Nearby, another 270 student musicians wait to sing with the choir, play the piano, ring handbells or practice with the orchestra. Some young musicians are participating in more than one musical track.

“As a music education advocate, it gives me great joy to see more than 420 students participating in this festival,” says Melia Williams, lead coordinator for the Washington Conference Music Festival. “Their involvement represents the investment of time, commitment and resources — for students, parents and educators.”

Rehearsal is fully under way now, and a few students are rushing their measures. The band starts, stops and repeats musical passages to find the proper pacing. These student musicians, from 17 large schools, small schools and home schools in Washington and Oregon, are learning how to play together with an even larger joint group of young musicians.

In the next rehearsal phase, the choir and orchestra join with the festival band to rehearse “America the Beautiful” for the festival’s finale. The finale involves three of the four festival clinicians simultaneously directing their respective groups: Mohr with the band, Trent Russell with the orchestra and Melia Williams with the choir.

These young musicians will perform a total of two dozen music pieces for a musical church service, represent their individual school music groups in a midafternoon concert, and present an hour-and-20-minute evening concert to a nearly full audience.

The lessons learned throughout the festival will manifest themselves during the performances when the hours of training are placed in the spotlight. The result? Worth every squeaky note and hour of rehearsal to find the perfect notes of harmony.

Festival Perspectives

“Music festival gives students a big picture by bringing them together. They are not alone. They are part of a bigger community of worship. It also gives them self-confidence in using their music skills.” — Doylene Cook, Lewis County Adventist School teacher

“At music festival, kids get the big picture of Adventist education that they don’t get in their small local school. They pick up a lot of musicality in a short amount of time and are able to make connections with other students that they met in previous years.” — Lowell Dunston, Cypress Adventist School principal

“Mr. Mohr is fun. He makes practicing fun, and we have practiced all day for two days.” — Kailey, Buena Vista seventh-grade student

“I appreciate the emphasis on music and how it draws students closer to God. Our small schools don’t have the opportunity for this type of music on this scale. Having three days is great. Attending music festival was one of the highlights of my time in academy.” — Alvin, Poulsbo parent

“There are lots of people you can meet. The choir teacher is good and knows how to handle kids. She is really good at managing us. And the food is really good.” — Joshua, Poulsbo sixth-grade student

“I enjoy band because the music is easy. I play the trumpet.” — Isaac, home school seventh-grader

“I love that there are lots of people, and I like the music. This is a great opportunity to check out the school and meet new people.” — Kiersten, home school freshman

“Music festival creates a camaraderie between the different schools. It gives them an opportunity to get to know one another and build relationships that they can carry into higher education.” — Mike, Auburn Academy Church member

“It is great for students to get experience performing and working together with people they don’t know. It gives them a bigger picture of Adventist education. They bond with peers with music as their common ground.” - Charlotte, Olympia parent

March 12, 2015 / Washington Conference