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Sweet Onion Area Honor Band Inaugurated

Sweet Onion Area Honor Band Inaugurated Sweet Onion Area Honor Band Inaugurated

School Concert Bands Receive Advanced Instruction

Within a few weeks, an inaugural event was organized and carried out that will have lasting effects for years to come for area music students. The first Sweet Onion Area Honor Bands descended upon the Vidalia High School campus on a Friday and performed a top-notch concert for family and friends on Saturday afiernoon.ffi

VHS Band Director Dr. Elizabeth Taylor and Associate Director Steven Arnold created this first annual event to build comradery with the area schools. Besides the fact that many concert bands have not performed since last year, Taylor also knew that many students have not had the opportunity to play their instrument with the variety of other instruments found in larger bands. Taylor said, “We all come from different band rooms, different styles, and it is so wonderful to watch it blend and come together.” That blending began Friday morning when students from fifteen middle and high schools had individual auditions to determine their chair placement in the band. Local schools participating were Robert Toombs Christian Academy, both middle and high schools from Toombs County, JR Trippe Middle School, VHS, and the area Home School Association. The school directors accompanied their students and had time to network with each other, and to assist with instruments.

Sessions of sight reading and rehearsals on the middle school and high school levels were held through the day Friday and Saturday to prepare three pieces each for performance on Saturday afternoon. Taylor has many talented colleagues to call upon, and two of them led the bands throughout these sessions.ffi

Valerie Morgan conducted the middle school honors band. Morgan is the elementary and middle school Band Director at Woodward Academy in College Park, GA. Her bands have consistently received superior ratings in evaluated festivals, and have been invited to many prestigious events in the 34 years she has been direct- ing.ffi

Morgan told the audience, “I’ve been so impressed with your children on this stage. We all come from different backgrounds, we’ve all had different experiences in the past year. Yet they have been so resilient, they have jumped right in and learned a lot.” The middle school band learned three difficult pieces and performed them well. The second piece was recognizable and has “been a lot of fun,” Morgan said. Bohemian Rhapsody “is an excellent teaching piece. Such a musical piece, lots of opportunity for great music making.” Vincent Rosse conducted the high schoolers. Rosse is Director of Bands at Stephenson Middle School in Stone Mountain, GA. He is an award-winning director who has led bands at festivals and pa- rades for over 34 years.ffi

Rosse considered it an honor to direct the students. “These students are talented, are working hard and are committed to music education.” He continued, “We didn't teach just music, we talked about life, how to live, how to act right, and how to say ‘I’m sorry’ and ask forgiveness and see how far you go. I’ve said this to your children this weekend.”

The three high school pieces included the very difficult Rippling Watercolors, one that bands take six weeks to prepare, not the six hours over this work- shop weekend.ffi

Taylor took the stage after this piece and admitted to being emotionally overwhelmed with how well the students played it. Taylor and Arnold then presented bags of Sweet Vidalia Onions to Morgan and Rosse, in lieu of a plaque of appreciation for their time. Rosse said, “It’s going to be a great aroma in my car on the way to Atlanta.”

Taylor gave appreciation to Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox, VHS Principal John Sharpe and the School Board for supporting the event. The parents were thanked by all the Directors for allowing their children to participate. Taylor told the parents, “Your presence in their activities is what means so much to them.” Taylor continued, “We have some amazing colleagues in this field, and you won’t find better friends and colleagues all over the state than right here in South Georgia.” Area musicians and consultants advised, and even built percussion instruments in the days before the event. Band directors filled in to play percussion in the high school band. Corporate sponsorship was provided for the event by colleagues at O’Malley Music of Douglas, GA, and by Cintas Corporation.

Rosse and Morgan commended Taylor and Arnold for the organization of the weekend. Rosse said, “You are doing magnificent things. Keep doing it.” To the students he said, “Practice, practice. Work hard when nobody's watching, that’s called character.”

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